Read some of our most Frequently Asked Questions


Who are we and why did we open The Discovery School of Virginia?

Mark Mellusi, John Outland, and Steve Welsh have worked together for over twenty-five years in outdoor therapeutic programs. We have developed a strong belief that long-term therapeutic camping is a setting that facilitates positive change. The Discovery School of Virginia opened in November 1998, and due to the ongoing success of our boys program and the repeated requests of referring professionals, The Discovery School of Virginia for Girls opened in September 2007. We remain involved in daily supervision and management of both programs.

What is our philosophy?

We believe to make positive changes, individuals must learn to self-regulate emotions and develop positive, safe relationships. The natural, outdoor setting simplifies students’ lives and daily living becomes less overwhelming. Students who are properly challenged develop a positive sense of self-worth and positive self-identity. Students who have developed emotional regulation and positive self-identities are capable of experiencing more academic success. Family relationships can thrive when there is mutual respect, good communication and effective problem solving.

Who can be considered for placement?

We are licensed to accept boys and girls, ages 11 to 17, who will be attending grades 6 through 12. Once a student is accepted to our program, he or she is able to remain with us past the age of 18 if it is determined by our staff and the student's parents and family members to be in the best interest of the student for the student's continued stay.
Additionally, The Discovery School of Virginia’s educational program offers students who have not completed the adequate number of credits for high school graduation to pre-test, prepare for and test for a General Equivalency Diploma should this be determined to be the most appropriate educational program for the student.

How long is a typical enrollment at The Discovery School of Virginia?

Students are usually with us for 12-16 months, although this time frame varies depending on the needs of the child and family.  After about two months, students are eligible to earn their "Crest".  This hallmark accomplishment includes the start of regularly scheduled off-campus weekend family visits.  These weekend visits start at four week intervals and increase in frequency during the remainder of the child's stay.

What diagnoses does a typical student bring at admission?

Although many students have no previous mental health diagnosis, some common diagnostic categories accompanying students at admission include ADD, ADHD, ODD, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, attachment disorders, PTSD, and depression.

How are psychotropic medications monitored and administered?

A decision will be made prior to admission to determine if a prospective student’s medications can be safely administered and monitored in our outdoor setting. A consulting outside clinician visits each school on a monthly basis and meets with each student receiving psychotropic medications. The clinician monitors the student’s progress and recommends changes in their treatment plan as needed.

What is the cost of The Discovery School of Virginia's program?

Please talk with our Admissions staff for an informative session regarding our costs. We operate as a for-profit, small business and work to provide a quality, affordable service without inflated administrative or marketing costs.
We are not eligible for grants or contributions from non-profit resources. However, if a potential student is being provided Special Education services through their current school system, it is possible the school system may pay partial or full tuition costs provided that “residential services” is a part of the student’s Individual Educational Plan.
We realize our costs are beyond the financial means of some parents who desire placement of their child at The Discovery School of Virginia. We are willing to consider requests for a reduction in tuition payments for parents who demonstrate a sincere need.
Prosper Healthcare Lending has also been a financial resource that families have utilized to fund an enrollment at The Discovery School. Another potential option is utilizing College Savings Accounts, as many 529 plans or other CSA's can be used to fund therapeutic programs. Check with your financial institution to determine if your 529 plan or other CSA can be used for this purpose.

Does the Discovery School of Virginia currently have openings?

We anticipate openings throughout the year and enrollments may occur year-round.

How does The Discovery School of Virginia prepare students for college?

We challenge each student to do his or her best in the classroom. Our teachers understand the importance of personalized instruction; not just having high expectations, but having the right expectations for each individual student.  Our college bound students understand a clear assessment of their abilities and learn to identify strategies to address future challenges.  School faculty and group staff work with each student to match his or her evolving college ambitions with the practical concerns of personal readiness and family dynamics.
The individualized academic experience can allow for ACT and SAT registration, preparation and testing.  Students are supported throughout the process of preparing and taking these tests.  The School’s Principal coordinates any assistance needed with the college application process and providing any needed test preparation.

What does The Discovery School of Virginia do to address vocational program interests?

Each student receives credit and participates in an integrated vocational curriculum. Our curriculum includes tool use/maintenance, basic woodworking, and elements of design and building. Students are taught job-related interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution and proper communication. Their daily work at their campsites teaches them the skills of job preparation and planning, time management, workplace authority and structure, and allows them to develop a positive work ethic for working within a group/team.
All students become eligible to apply for on-campus jobs as they progress through the program. Through this experience they learn the skills of job application and interview preparation. On-campus employment includes the vocations of grounds keeping, building maintenance, and food preparation. In special circumstances, we have arranged for off-campus internships with our community.  These placements are based on demonstrable need, availability, and the student's ongoing commitment to his or her personal and developmental growth at the school.

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