As a metaphor for important qualities in adolescent development, the local Manzanita plant stands alone. Among chaparral flora, the Manzanita is especially resilient and uniquely beautiful. It can grow in a wide range of ecosystems, from arctic tundra to high desert. The wood contains a resin which allows it to burn even when wet, giving it a powerful internal fire, which our youth need to cultivate and control at this age. Also, the seed of the Manzanita cannot germinate without undergoing the ordeal of passing through fire. Rigorous and meaningful challenges help to forge a strong adolescent identity.



The notion that each person is born with an inner genius is not new. The ancient Greeks called it the daimon, that unique seed that would become one’s individual destiny. The Dagara of Africa say that the ancestors give each person a gift at their birth, stored away until called forth by elders during the adolescent rite of passage. The seed grows with careful mentoring, they say, and its expression is much needed by the earth. At Manzanita, we believe every young person has something unique and meaningful to offer the world, and that this gift must be awakened during this critical age.  



Adolescence is a critical time in the human lifespan. In addition to the obvious physical growth, youth between the ages of 9 and 15 experience tremendous changes in their emotional, intellectual, interpersonal, and spiritual lives. Other than infancy, there is no more important developmental period. Throughout human history this powerful time of youth has demanded a very deliberate and conscientious attention by adults. At Manzanita, we are committed to guiding youth meaningfully through this transitional age and across the threshold into adulthood. 


Most current educational models create school transitions for students after 5th grade, and again at the end of 8th. Although far from appropriate, given what we know about human development, nearly 80% of youth in America experience separate elementary, middle, and high schools, undergoing institutional transitions at ages 11 and 14. At Manzanita, we believe the least disruptive transition points for a child are at the end of 3rd grade, and at the end of high school. For this reason, we have structured our school to serve grades 4 through 12.


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