The approach with the students at the Briar Patch Ranch has been a combination of motivation, hard work, and compassion. Dave and his staff develop an excellent rapport with the students by working closely with them in natural settings and with animals, which is very motivating to children. Students are supported in the academic setting by the same staff and access to on-line training and up-to-date technologies. The Briar Patch has developed new ideas and programming for students at all grade levels. I would highly recommend this program for students and districts looking for a truly innovative way to educate and motivate students that have had learning and/or behavioral difficulties in the school setting.
— Mark Semer (retired) Director of Special Education Services Gahanna City Schools and Coordinator of Special Education Services Worthington City Schools

To Whom It May Concern,
I have been working with (name withheld) since November 2011 in therapeutic engagement. Since transferring to Briar Patch Ranch, I have seen a noticeable increase in his openness and willingness to engage others. Briar Patch Ranch has provided (name withheld) with a forum in which he can grow as a young man and better reach his full potential. In my dealings iwth Briar Patch Ranch, I have been greatly impresses with the degree to which they individually address a student’s needs and facilitate a safe and nurturing environment in their homes or communities. I would highly recommend Briar Patch Ranch, especially for children with social or behavioral needs.
— Directions for Youth & Families

I have been working with a young lady that in the past year has been in several schools, a partial hospitalization treatment center, a hospital, and a residential treatment center for sever behaviors at school. At the time of her release from residential she had only been in school approximately 2 weeks total of the school year. She enrolled in Briar Patch and has not missed a day of school since! The animals and the staff are top notch and really “get it”! The teachers make academics not seem like work and the animals make the work seem like play. I have to be honest and say I was not really hopeful for this young lady since she has NEVER done well in school, but boy was I WRONG!!!! She is thriving, her mother reports that she gets up wanting to go to school and is begging to attend Briar Patch next year! Up to this point when I would get a call from the swchool I always assumed it was a behavior problem, not anymore. Briar Patch Ranch has done a wonderful job!
— Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities

Briar Patch is a rare program for at-risk students because they have full run of the farm, and take in real-world lessons from their duties.
— Dr. John Gailer Program coordinator for the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University

I think there is a need for the type of program he is offering, there are some kids that just don’t make it in everyday classrooms and I think it’s a great thing he’s doing.
— Mayor of Canal Winchester Michael Ebert

We look at an out-of-town district setting after we have exhausted multiple attempts to allow or help students to experience success in the in-district setting. Students we refer to Briar Patch have displayed significant behavioral concerns (including suspensions and perhaps potential expulsion concerns), usually have some truancy issues, and are experiencing academic failure. Most have interpersonal difficulties with staff and peers, and have been involved in either verbal, physical or both types of altercation in the school setting. Many have juvenile concerns which have been or are being addressed through the court systems. At Briar Patch, there are fewer students, and opportunities to explore activities not available in the school setting - such as farm related activities, and activities with animals. For some students, the setting itself presents a more calming atmosphere. While there are academics required, the written work is modified significantly, and students are able to gain required credits toward high school graduation. For students with severe concerns, the setting has provided an alternative path to education.
— Dr. Judy Eisel, Retired Groveport School Psychologist
Photo by draganajokmanovic/iStock / Getty Images

I am writing this letter to let you know what a blessing sending my son to Briar Patch has been for him and for me as well. After years of everyone in the school district struggling to try to help him, it was decided that he would go to Briar Patch last March (2016). In just a few weeks of him going there, I could see a huge improvement in his behavior at school and at home. He just continues to get better and better. He is getting good grades and I am proud to say he is not getting in trouble at school. I don't get called away from work, nor do I get phone calls. If there is a problem they handle it. I am so glad that I pushed for him to go to Briar Patch and thankful that Whitehall allowed him to go. They are truly a God send to me!  

-BP Parent


Mr. Mac,

As this school year comes to an end, I look at my son and where he is compared to where he was a year ago, even six months ago before you and the Briar Patch Ranch came into our lives. I sat in your office crying and I remember saying the words, "I just want my little boy back!" You said to me "Ma'am, I promise you will have your son back"...and you gave him back to me. You have given him somebody to look up to, not just you, but even the older boys (you have already helped) that have taken him under their wing. For the first time in his life, my son is confident and proud of what he has learned and accomplished at school and excited to tell me about it. He is learning to embrace his uniqueness and that it is OK that he is not like everyone else. For the first time in his life, he talks about what he wants to do when he grows up. He wants to be a special needs teacher, so he "can help kids like him". I work hard and do my best with and for him, but the hard reality is, that as a single mom, there are certain things I can not teach my son. He has become such a respectful young man, I could not have done that by myself. Six months ago, when I looked into my son's eyes, I didn't see him anymore. He was hurt and angry at himself and the world and now I look at him and there he is and it makes my heart smile. The circumstances of his life have made him grow up so quickly, in some ways he never got to be a kid. He has such a good heart and he is so smart, he was just lost inside himself for so long and God bless you, you got through to him!

-BP Parent