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Our History

The First Outdoor Therapeutic School for Girls in the Southeast

It was in 1969 when Jack and Ruth Eckerd formalized their desire to give troubled and at-risk girls a much-needed second chance by founding Eckerd Connects E-Nini-Hassee in Floral City, Florida. At the time, their goal was simple: provide a better treatment alternative for girls than the prevailing methods of hospitalization or institutionalization. Their vision was for every child to have the opportunity to succeed.

At E-Nini-Hassee, the Eckerds created a positive, strengths-based environment for girls to experience nurturing guidance, see adults role modeling appropriate behaviors, learn in an educational setting with passionate teachers and youth counselors, participate in therapeutic outdoor adventures and fully realize the potential that already exists within them.

At the time, this outdoor therapeutic approach for girls was so novel there were some who doubted it would work. Instead of restricting troubled girls to detention centers or hospital beds, the E-Nini-Hassee approach gave girls freedom to experience personal growth through high-interest, therapeutic recreational activities. As a remedy to anger and hostility, the E-Nini-Hassee approach advocated unconditional regard, nurturing, and support.

The skeptics were soon converted and E-Nini-Hassee gained the attention of government agencies and leaders throughout the country.

Today, E-Nini-Hassee remains the most established and trusted outdoor therapeutic school for girls in the southeastern United States, consistently identified as one of the most effective programs of its kind in the nation.

Although American society has changed much since the 1960’s, the proven principles upon which E-Nini-Hassee were founded have withstood the test of time. Since 1969, E-Nini-Hassee has given nearly 10,000 girls and their families a much-needed second chance at happiness and success.

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