Family Foundation School / Allynwood Academy
CLOSED (August 2014)




Matt A

Hello everyone my name is Matt A. I attended the FFS from July 18, 1997 to May of 2000. Just about 3 years. I also worked at the school a year after graduating in 2001 to about half way through 2003, then again in the summer of 2003 and for the last time trough the summer of 2007. So for about a decade I was affiliated with the place. It has been ten years since I graduated and left with the schools seal of approval. I will be as completely honest and as objective as possible. The Family school certainly changed my life I think much the way Auschwitz changed the life of Primo Levi. It profoundly changed me. The Family School takes something good like AA, which has saved millions of alcoholics from death, and twists and distorts it and essentially capitalizes on it in a way the founders of AA explicitly say not to in the 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. The following quote is taken from tradition 6 which states

An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any
related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and
prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

The next quote is from tradition 8,

Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our
service centers may employ special workers.

These are two of the major guiding principles of AA. Perhaps my testimony does not even apply here because my issue with the school is more a moral issue than a legal one. I have seen clear human rights violations but not what I would call calculated systematic abuse. I know this may not satisfy some but I hope to prove the moral issue is actually worse than the legal one.

The first thing one may see as a contradiction is that I worked at the school, of my own free will, several times after I was supposedly abused. Well I am not claiming I was even directly physically abused as I think is the case most, though not all, of the time. I was however subjected to mental abuse as was the case I believe with nearly anyone who went there. I want to speak here of the more subtle forms of abuse that go on there, abuses of power, truth and trust. Here’s my problem, a school that uses the tactics the family school uses, or used when I was there/worked there, could make anyone do almost anything. Everyone operates out of fear. O.K. let me tell you what its like.

The school started out with a small group but it is the power of the group which makes the place run. Imagine your placed in a community where everyone believes that the spaghetti monster is real and will destroy the community if you don’t bow down before him twice a day and donate five dollars a day to him? At first you would laugh and say that’s ridiculous. But what if everyone insisted and believed so much and sincerely that they sanctioned you for not obeying the spaghetti monster. If every one else in the group controls your life and they insist you practice what they do out of fear and punishment you would inevitably purport to believe in the spaghetti monster. This was my experience for three years only it wasn’t the spaghetti monster I had to believe in.

I had to be a sex addict and food addict and drug addict and every other kind of addict. I was 16. I had to believe in god and purity and church and family and Jesus and my parents and the school was always right and I was wrong, spoiled, a brat, rotten, fat, lazy and a liar. I had to yell at people, bring people up, play the game. That’s who graduates and gets to leave, the ones who play the game. How does this help anyone? We were always at the mercy of which ever staff was on duty at any particular moment. Imagine giving teenagers power over other teenagers. People often brought others up out of spite or to look good in front of their sponsors and I read the testimonials on the official web site and there all saying the exact same thing. No independent thought, a bunch of robots. Who wants a bunch of robots?

Three years is a long time. I believed so deeply in everyone’s motives and all the good the place does that I wanted to work there. The truth was I was so ill prepared for college or anything that I became very lonely. I was used to for three years living in a bubble where I was made to feel important for doing the bidding of the owners and staff of the school. I didn’t realize I was just a pawn. It looked very good for the school to have students like myself come back. We prove the school works if you work it so to speak. Yes I had really came to experiment with principles from AA but I was being forced and everything good I took from the place was in spite of the place. In AA, in the book itself, there is a passage somewhere, sorry I can’t quote it, that talks about how sponsors may deal with members who are still reluctant to join AA. Its something to the effect of, “here is ten bucks try some more controlled drinking and see how well you do”.

My point here is that AA is voluntary, it is so incredibly against the spirit of AA to force 14,15,16 year olds to admit they are alcoholics and attend by threatening to take away meals or visits home or the few measly privileges one can earn there. Everything they insisted I be, I became. I had to survive. I tried running away four or five time but with the law and my parents and this place against me at 16 I had little other choice. I played the game. If you did too and life just kept getting better for you great, I’m not telling you you’re a liar or a complainer or anything. Go on the schools web site and put your testimonial down there.

I just feel today that the owners Mike and Rita Argiros don’t really care about helping families and rich kids who are failing out of school. I feel they care about their business, their fathers business which is now run by them. When you are 16 and adults are telling you things you tend to believe them, this is human nature. I was naive. Perhaps Tony cared, which I don’t believe, the stories of his actual physical abuse which I have too witnessed is the worst of anyone’s there, I truly don’t think they do at all. If I did I would not be writing this.

Here are just some things I’ve seen while working and living there for the time I did. I invite anyone to e-mail me if they wish to tell me I am lying. Jed Zach, a former student was wrapped up in a blanket and duct tape for over 24 hours after being deemed violent. I lived in an old 1970’s trailer with shag carpeting that smelled like urine. For over four months our hot water wouldn’t work and we had to used the schools gym locker room showers. Where was the money going? It wasn’t a big deal but if the owner’s hot water was broken would he wait over four months to fix it? My parents spent nearly 90,000 dollars for my three years there and the whole time I lived in a 1960’s 70’s trailer with 15 other teenage boys.

I saw a girl get sick every time we had sausage, which was twice a week. Every time for over two years she had to eat sausage and it made her very ill, she would almost always throw up yet they would save whatever was left of the sausage and she couldn‘t eat anything else until she ate every bit of sausage. Imagine the anxiety something like that would cause a person and for 2 plus years. This tactic was used often on girls the school deemed to have an “eating disorder”. The staff would often say something to the effect of, “go ahead and don’t eat we’ll take you to the hospital and they will feed you with tubes.” What is the point there? No milk in our hot chocolate? These were admitted rules for the sake of rules. My problem is the hypocrisy the place breeds. You had a staff member who had recently cheated on his wife, relapsed and left a religious community working there. He still works there. Where would someone like that get off fixing teenagers?

OK here’s a good one that I’m happy to put up here because it epitomizes the absurdity of the place. One Saturday, I believe it was, all the boys in the school were called into the gym. Mind you, a few hours of watching a movie or playing basketball on the weekends was the only “free” time we ever had. Anyway we were called into the gym and told to go up to our trailers and get our toothbrushes. We were then given buckets of soapy water and all told to start scrubbing the gym floor. No one dared refuse or question. After an hour or so of scrubbing we were told that some boy or group of boys vandalized the boys bathroom in the school. They wrote profanities on the walls and left toilet paper all over and defecated on the floor. I thought this sounded strange because FFS students were not allowed to use the bathrooms alone. Instead one needed to have a “senior member” escort them to the bathrooms. Anyway, we were told to scrub until someone admitted it. After more than five hours of scrubbing and aching backs a student tried to “confess” just to give us all a break. I can’t remember what happened with that but we were then abruptly told to stop, throw away our toothbrushes and continue on our day. That was it. Later I learned that it was the owner’s sons who vandalized the bathroom. We were never formally told that nor was any apology made to us. I believe our parents were even billed for our new toothbrushes.

The FFS school creates this kind of all-or-nothing mentality in many of its students that can be very detrimental. Its like either you’re a soldier-warrior for the truth or your going to die or go to jail because your not doing God’s will. Who are these people who claim they have all the answers?

Please read MP’s testimonial. Rita now co-owns the school. I could go on and on but I want to end this now. I just want to help make sure no other kid gets stuck there. If something is too good to be true, it usually is. I would also like to see the people who profited off of my problems never be able to do so again in this lifetime. May they all get real jobs in the real world not the world they create using whatever tactics necessary.

Submitted By: Matt A.