Alumnus helps teens learn to take healthy risks

Six years ago, Adam Rainer (BA ’95) founded a school for troubled adolescents.

“I struggled as a teenager to make healthy decisions,” says Rainer. “I made enough poor choices that my parents got worried about where I would be in a few years.”

Rainer’s parents sent him to a school where he learned to make positive choices. Later, Rainer attended the University of Denver, where he studied psychology and philosophy.

“When I was at DU, I realized that I wanted to be part of helping kids who struggle through adolescence,” Rainer recalls.

However, Rainer did not want to merely join an existing school. Because he was raised in an entrepreneurial household, he wanted to make it his own.

Janette Benson, DU psychology associate professor and director of the Office of Academic Assessment, remembers discussing Rainer’s ideas with him.

“Throughout the years that I have known Adam, he has always shown a unique combination of passion, level-headedness, clear sense of vision and a wonderful sense of humor.”

After working in the financial industry and earning an MBA from Southern Methodist University, Rainer spent 18 months looking for land and securing investments for the school. Then, in 2002, Shortridge Academy, located on 350 acres in Milton, N.H., opened its doors.

Today, Shortridge boasts 50 staff, 120 graduates and 60 current students. The tuition-based program, where students live for up to 18 months, requires strict scheduling of the students, who also are encouraged to contribute to the school’s operational decision-making.

Integral to the school’s success is Rainer’s deep respect for the students he serves.

“These kids have the risk-taking mindset that could propel them into strong leadership roles,” he says. “It’s clear they take risks and some are unhealthy, which got them here. But they are moved to take chances and they’re learning how to take healthy risks — so I have a lot of confidence in where they will end up.”

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