Midwest Academy

Midwest Academy

Midwest Academy in Keokuk, Iowa was started by Brian Vaifanua in 2003, former owner of Paradise Cove in Samoa. Midwest Academy is currently directed by Ben Trane however the property is owned by The Lichfield Family Partnership. Since the “restructure” of WWASP, Midwest claims to have dissolved affiliation with WWASP despite similarities in program structure, the use of seminars and being marketed by Teen Revitalization, WWASP’s current marketing arm. Former students have reported systematic abuses including restraints, stress positions and isolations for multiple days even weeks at a time. Also several accounts of emotional and neglectful abuse have been reported along with a considerable lack of medical sufficiency including dangerous cocktails of medications forced upon students causing mental breaks and attempts at suicide.

In February 2006, 3 staff members at Midwest Academy including a man referred to as “Howard V.” were placed on the State of Iowa Child Abuse Registry as a result of an Iowa Department of Human Services Investigation of their actions towards at least one student. This may or may not have been in response to a scandal within the same year in which a nurse and a student were caught engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct (reported to be intercorse). In 2004, 2 students from Casa by the Sea were transferred to Midwest after it’s closure in 2004. In 2006 Midwest Academy sent 2 runaways from the facility to WWASP’s Tranquility Bay in Jamaica. Midwest claims to have dual enrollment with the Keokuk county school district; however, in 2011 that enrollment policy was put up for review citing the issues with enrolling students to whom the district were not allowed access. Midwest Academy continued to utilize improper and violent means of restraint and places children in isolation rooms with no ventilation, constant video taping and harsh lighting for 24 hours or more. Midwest Academy was named as a defendant in the joint action lawsuit against WWASP.

In February 2016, a joint task force of law enforcement conducted a raid on the facility following an allegation of sexual abuse against Trane. The school was subsequently ordered closed. Trane was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor by a counselor, and child endangerment. The trail in December 2017 resulted in Trane being found guilty of all charges. He currently faces up to 9 years in prison and will have to register as a sex offender.


Ben Trane was the Director of Midwest Academy and facilitator for Midwest Academy’s seminars. Trane claims his qualifications to run Midwest were derived from his experience working at two “similar schools” in Ohio and Southern Utah. He also owns and manages a gas station and condos “right across the river from Nauvoo” (Montrose, Iowa). Trane was insistent that under his tutelage Midwest has changed, yet he continued to run the school in the same style, including hiring unqualified employees, maintaining a program that systematically abused children and refusing them the right to call the authorities for help if they felt they were being abused.
In February 2016, Midwest Academy was raided and closed by authorities after an allegation of sex abuse against Trane. Trane was eventually arrested and charged with sexual assault of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor by a counselor, and child endangerment. The trail was held in December 2017. Trane was found guilty of all charges and faces up to 9 years in prison and will have to register as a sex offender.
Brian Vaifanua owned and ran one of the most notorious WWASP programs, Paradise Cove in Samoa, a facility where children were subject to miserable conditions, denied proper food and medical care and systematically tortured, assaulted, neglected and broken.  Vaifanua started his career with WWASP at Cross Creek, La Verkin Utah, Then in 1994 he opened Paradise Cove. After Paradise Cove was shut down he moved back to Cross Creek and then went on to become director of Midwest Academy, in Keokuk Iowa. In 2012 Vaifanua was reported to the St. George school district superintendent with a long list of alleged human rights abuses committed by him and urging the Board to have Mr. Vaifanua banned from working with young children.

Survivor Testimony

Despots in the American Heartland – Daniel Maurer

Survivor Testimony Midwest Academy – James F

Treatment at Midwest Academy – Shayla

My Experience of Midwest Academy – Believe Us124

Midwest Academy Sex Scandal – Believe Us124


Some survivors have attempted to reach out to parents in hopes to dissuade them from enrollment by posting reviews on these websites:

Merchant Circle – Midwest Academy

Google Places – Midwest Academy

Yahoo Local – Midwest Academy

*It is customary for the marketing employees of these schools to post fake positive reviews, please beware of false advertising. If you or your child were former students at this school we highly recommend you share your experience with the public and post your review on one or all of these sites.


HEAL-online.org – Midwest Academy

AntiWWASP Forums – Midwest Academy



[nggallery id=15]

81 Responses to “Midwest Academy”

  1. anonymous Says:

    I was employed as a teacher there for a time. The current head of the Academics program, Miss Sarah, is a former front office secretary at MWA, with no other background or training in education or educational administration. She also has extremely poor management and people skills, with the result that teachers are left scrambling around in frustration in the effort to cope with her arbitrary decrees and still help the students. Why Ben Trane promoted her and allows her to continue in this position is a mystery. But parents should be aware that staff qualification and staff training are low priorities at MWA (for example, I was told to watch another teacher for a couple of hours to learn the “system” and then put to work with no further training). I am aware of people being employed as teachers there in the not too distant past who had no more than a high school degree themselves.

    While I never witnessed any outright abuse in the classroom, I certainly witnessed situations in which staff were actually bullying students (beyond the limits of the “program”). I remember one case where a student got a consequence and was filling out the necessary paperwork. Instead of allowing the student to work in peace, the staff member kept verbally berating the student about the event that had resulted in the consequence. The student tried very hard to keep his cool and politely asked the staff member to drop the subject, since it had been dealt with already. But the berating continued at intervals for some time before the student finally got upset enough for the staff member to feel justified in giving him yet another consequence.

    At MWA, there is an illusion of respect for students and staff (and demands for respect by those in charge!), but that illusion hides the true MWA culture of bullying and actively-encouraged backstabbing. Employee turnover is high (because of management, not because of the stress of dealing with the students), and many former employees can attest to the same thing.


    • Lillian Says:

      I completely agree with you my fiancé just got done working there “mr Nathan”. Nathan was appalled by the way they bullied the children there he tried his best to make changes and help out who he could but due to Shasta almost every idea he had was shut down. They she continued to bully my family to get Nathan it of MWA.


      • James Buchanan Says:

        I was there for Mr. Nathan and he is a great man. He helped me out in some hard times. Please thank him and send him my regards .

        -James Buchanan


      • Brayton King Says:

        I went to midwest academy for over a year and I agree with what you are saying. I was at midwest for a time when Mr. Nick was working at midwest and he was one of the few staff members i felt comfortable with…


    • illia kovalev Says:

      That is so true I still remember staff even telling upper classmates to only give consequences to a specific person and telling another staff with a smile and a chuckle that he was going to make a student cry today! Fucking PIGS


    • cindy loohoo Says:

      anonymous ex teacher your testimony could be useful now, reach out here if you’d be willing to go on the record. MWA is now closed and the FBI have an investigation ongoing.


    • CISSY Says:

      WOW! Where are you employed now? Or since Midwest Academy? Any update or news?
      Anything is much appreciated!


  2. Lillian Says:

    http://www.safeteenschools.org has staff testimony up regarding the condition and abuse at the Midwest Academy facility


  3. kay szweda Says:

    my son attended one of these boarding schools. I am greatly interested in becoming part.

    We need to stand together in love for our children.

    It is so terrible that there are ‘companies’ that abuse terribly hurting parents and take thousands and thousands of dollars from us in the name of helping.


  4. ekaf eman Says:

    ok here is the thing, i went there, i did a lot of dumb and bad shit before hand, any abuse that came to be when i was there towards myself, was either my fault or justified. its not hard to just shut the fuck up and take direction from someone weather you like them or not. yeah, you have to backstab to get out of there, its a game if your kid doesnt learn it, you will spend a fuck ton of money. ben trane is a good guy he offered me jobs after being forced out of the program and i still keep in contact. when kids are restrained, they are being fucking shitheads, or they are getting violent towards themselves or others. just because your kids went to the program does not mean they still arent little fucking snakes. and yes like i said before i went there in 09 stayed for a year and now im out and doing good. if you dont like the fact that your shithead criminal fucking child wont be treated as a fucking king, dont bother sending your kids there.


    • WWASP Survivors Says:

      I find it extremely troubling that a survivor would think this way about his fellow students… These kids are not criminals, they are kids, kids in need of real and ethical treatment. I know it hasn’t been long since you’ve left the program, and you do seem quite young but there are some things you don’t seem to understand about the restraints that are administered at Midwest Academy. For one, they are not used in accordance with any clinical standard of patient restraint, in fact the methods that are used have been outlawed in many states and there are pending federal laws to outlaw them in the US. The face down restraint is one of the most dangerous methods, proven to cause trauma, injury and in far too many unfortunate cases, death. The problem is not only with the staff’s lack of training in the use of these restraints, it is also in the reasoning. A child saying something rude or not following directions is not a danger to themselves or others, and does not require a physical intervention. When used in this manner the goal seems to only be for punishment and intimidation to the rest of the group not to step out of line. If a physical intervention is needed, there are many safe, ethical and painless ways to restrain a patient, but MWA refuses to consider the use of these methods before resorting to tackling and contorting the limbs of students.

      You have to ask yourself, from a clinical and ethical perspective, is this treatment? Is locking a kid in a tiny room with the lights on for days, weeks even months at a time therapeutic? Most mental health professionals would consider it the exact opposite, in fact would classify it as a traumatic event, which could result in negative psychological effects. I hate to sound rude here, but I would take the word of licensed mental health professional before I would take the word of a kid who would say that any kid who was abused somehow deserved it. If this is the lesson that MWA taught you before you left in 09, I would say you still have some significant de-programming to go through. It’s so sad how these program can actually convince these kids that they were bad and they needed/ deserved to be abused just to grow up… It’s a major mind game, and no child regardless of their issues, should have to experience such a stripping of their human rights and dignity, especially in the name of treatment.


    • brennan Imhof Says:

      i went to this place for four years and i cant talk enough about this place, what an outstanding facility, the workers were nice and respectful and treated all the patients with the upmost respect, like i said i cant talk enough about this place, just fantastic, what a great place i mean really, when i stepped foot in this place i knew i was gonnna get some fantastic treatment, i mean if i could choose between harvard and this place this place wins every time, i mean what a great place, you know what im saying guy, i love this place, what a camp


    • Denise Says:

      Well I can see why you graduated. If you are an example of a positive experience there,I wouldn’t send anyone. You call names,cuss like a sailor and obviously have no respect .


  5. Vince Says:

    Great article. I attended MW my Sr year (2005-2006) and got my HS Diploma there. One thing I don’t think was mentioned was the fact that the diploma from MW is no different than a homeschooling diploma. Therefore it is not considered an acceptable school diploma for the US Air Force, however the Army does accept it.

    Also to add to the isolation part with the horrid lighting that was very true. Honestly its just called solitary. You are in a room about the length of a twin size mattress with harsh lighting that NEVER turns off and a camera pointed at you. The walls are inch thick plywood. I was in there for about a week and that was the last time.

    Could go on and on bout the ridiculousness of it all but I’m sure there are articles everywhere 😛


  6. Erin Says:

    This is heartbreaking. To watch all these people degrade something that saved my life. Mr.Ben is a beautiful person with a vision and loving intentions. He does not deserve any of this. I was there for 14 months and there was never abuse. That is a lie. Yes it was hard and no it was not fun but this place is such a positive piece of my life. Leave Mr.Ben and his dreams alone.


  7. Former student Says:

    These are NOT lies! As a former student of Midwest Academy I lived through the abuse! I saw others get abused and I was abused as well. Just because you didn’t witness abuse doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Pull your head put of the sand. If Ben Trane really cared about those children he wouldn’t hire unqualified staff who are constantly on a power trip and are physically abusing and emotionally torturing the kids there. Ben doesn’t care about anything other than the money going into his pocket from desperate parents.


  8. James Buchanan Says:

    Before I start I just want to say that yes… good things did come out of being sent here, for example I finished four years of highschool in 15 months but somethings do need to change. When I was restrained once my elbow popped twice and then I was put in solitary confinement for close to three days. Noone checked on my arm for ten days and I feel that is unacceptable. There was another kid there who was Muslim and he was given pork for food. He was told “eat it or dont but were not making anything special for you” then they denied ever giving him pork. It was gelatin which is made of pig bones. There is a 12 year old there who has the mental cappasity of a 6 year old and they will put him in solitary for crying too much. The place is built off of a point system and they will take away three to four days worth of points away for looking out windows, putting your hands in your pockets or looking at girls. Solitary confinement was also known as oss and to get out you had to sit with your feet in front of you and your back against the wall for 24 hours and if you move you restart structure. One time I was denied a bathroom so I was forced to urinate in a corner of the room and then stay in the room. A 12 year old who is currently there should not have to experience such things. There is also a rule there that if youe eeven say depdepartment of human services or dhs you loose two days of points. I felt so hopelessthere that I tried to kill myself multiple times including digging at my arm with my thumbnail and I was not even given a psych eevaluation. Their goal is to break you and they do a good job at it.


  9. Lillian S Says:

    if you were abused in Midwest Academy and would like to share your story please visit http://www.safeteenschools.org


  10. Anonymous Says:

    I attended Midwest Academy from December 2013 to June 2014, a total of six months. My overall experience of this school was very poor. This is not a solution to your teens problems. Ever since the first day I arrived at Midwest I worked extremely hard, simply because I knew that, that would be my only way out of the hell hole that I had been stuck in. Yes, I do know the school is obviously not designed for you to like it. That is the point, & I completely understand that. But, what I do not understand and agree with is the schooling techniques & poor staff they have hired to work with the kids. First off, school at Midwest is ridicolous. As a level three and up you are responsible to go and watch kids sit in concrete boxes for two straight hours (on your designated shift) missing out on well-needed school time. Becuase of this I was unable to get as much school done as I would of liked to in the time being that I was there. When you approach a staff or an upper level to ask if you could have an alternate to go in for you they automatically say that it is your responsibility and disregard what you are even trying to say. The reason in why it makes me so mad is because one of the main reasons in which i was sent there was because of my poor attendance and grades in school. Since I progressed quickly up in the levels of the program I would miss out on a whole lot of school time. One time when I had to go watch OSS (the room where kids will sit in tiny, concrete white rooms for days) one girl who was in there at the time continously kept cutting her self with a woodchip she had torn off of the wall. I was highly disturbed since blood was coming out of her arm and immediantly let the staff member who was in their at the time, Ms. Vicki, know. She completely ignored what was going on and just said something to the lines of, “Well, that’s her choice.” I couldn’t bare sit there and watch this poor girl cut on herself and I told her to please don’t do that to herself because I cared about her a lot and didn’t want to see her like that. I ended up getting a cat 2 consequence for talking, which is a loss of 25 points. Certain staff don’t care at all. Ms. Vicki is by far the most cruel, hateful staff there is. She verbally abuses everyone, but defiantly picks favorites to talk cruely too. She bullys the kids non-stop and seems to get enjoyment out of doing it. There is a line between discipline and abuse. She defiantly crossed the line with the things that she would say. She would make fun of one person in front of the whole entire group of girls until that ine person would just be in tears. No matter how polite and nice you were to her it was just never good enough. This went for the upper levels as well. In the six montg time period that I was there I gained a total of 18 pounds. Keep in mind that I worked out hard and tried my hardest to pick healthier eating choices. Always trying to cut back on carbs & never eating the deserts that they offered at both, lunch and dinner. They barely feed you and defiantly manipulate parents into thinking the meals are nutrious and healthy. One time when I was serving we ran out of french fries and the kitchen worker told me that I was going to get any more, that, that was all she had and that I was going to have to make it work. Keep in mind that I made atleast six more people in line to serve not including myself and the other server. We ended up not getting fries. This school is a lie and will do absolutely anything to get your money. They are manipulative and try to brain wash students. WHATEVER YOU DO, THERE IS ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE IN LIFE THEN TO SEND YOUR CHILD TO MIDWEST ACADEMY!!! Please don’t do it.


  11. Rachel Holtzman Says:

    The information that some people are providing is completely inaccurate. Midwest is the best thing that has ever happened to me and is by far the only reason why I am alive. I have NEVER seen any of the students get ‘hit or abused’. If anything, the staff get hit by some of the students. Midwest provides 24/7 emotional support and if you think that being told to wait half an hour to talk to someone is neglect then you obviously never went there. Yes, Midwest was tough. But I don’t know a single person that didn’t learn anything there. The people who are lying on this forum absolutely disgust me.


    • Bill Boyles Says:

      Please see this reply i just made to a similar comment. Odd how all of a sudden there are a bunch of people on here defending Midwest Academy. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, and totally NOT a setup.


      • Redman Says:

        god damn you are fucking liberal douche bag.
        Go fucking cry about your academy days, and get a fucking hair cut, you ugly fucking cuck.


    • Parker Hammer Says:

      I was at MWA for about 3 months. The third night I was there I ran away with 2 other guys that were incarcerated with me. We got split up as we were running for our freedom and eventually got caught and brought back the following day. I spent the next week after that in solitary confinement, getting fed only pp&j (3) and maybe an apple and some raisins every day. When I got out, two “upper levels” had to hold on to both my arms everywhere I went for the remainder of the 3 months.

      I can honestly say that MWA fucks some kids minds up and ruins there lives. Observing the students there, especially the ones that been there for more than a year, I noticed some pretty obvious psychological damage in some. If your already mentally/emotionally challenged before going in, coming out… you are fucked. The program teaches nothing but YOU ARE A TROUBLED CHILD, LISTEN TO US AND DO WHAT YOUR TOLD SO YOU CAN HEAL, DONT EXPRESS ANY ORIGINAL IDEAS, NO FUN, FOLLOW STRUCTURE! And the scary thing is, Most kids buy it! During a routine group session we had one day, I was looking around and noticed how many kids were brainwashed into thinking the program is a good thing and that the structure is good for them, rather than having a good time and actually enjoying life. One time a fellow student (The Great Chezini Aka Austin) accused the program of trying to brainwash us to the staff member who was watching over us. The staff member, Mr. Don, replied, and I quote, “Yes, we are brainwashing you.” Mr. Don is a good guy, but just because you believe that your beliefs are “right” doesn’t mean that you should forcefully instill them on teens, and that goes for the whole staff.

      MWA is worse than prison. In Prison, at least you know where you are, you know what your into. At MWA, They give you an illusion that “Its a good thing you’r here, your getting better, follow these rules so you can move up in the program and be successful!” No. In reality, your locked up. Your here because your parents couldn’t or didn’t want to take care of you or get real help (ex.a therapist,psychologist)

      All that being said, I can honestly say that from my one on one talks with Ben Trane I can tell he’s a good guy with good intentions, and that he honestly believes in the program since all his kids go through it. He just fails to see how destructive it can be and that the flaws outweigh the good tremendously.


      • Zach Devereaux Says:


        I agree completely with what you said. I remember the night that you ran away with the two other peers and you ended up getting caught and put in OSS for like over a week. It was bad. What you said was completely true though.


      • Misty Mathers Says:

        Parker Hammer,please contact me ,I’m looking for someone in particular,and I think you know him.thank you.


  12. Allysa Hammoond Says:

    My name is Allysa Hammond. I came home from MWA two days ago on home intern. I was there for 13 months. It was a hard long journey to get to where I am now, but in no way, shape, or form, was there any kind of abuse ever. The people who work there have the kindest hearts I’ve ever experienced in my life. Mr. Ben, Mr. James, and all the other staff work there because they truly want to help teens better their lives. I am going to graduate this fall and I am 100% willing to speak to any students/parents who have any questions about my experience there and the truth about Midwest
    contact me at : jadehammond96@gmail.com


    • Bill Boyles Says:


      I’m glad you (apparently) had a positive experience. I would, however, like to point out a few things you (and anyone else reading this) ought to keep in mind.

      a) Whatever your own personal experience was, that doesn’t mean it was also the experience of everyone else who has attended Midwest Academy. Remember, they’ve been in operation for over 11 years, and Ben Trane has owned it for something like 8 or 9 years. Things may be different now.

      b) IF things ARE different, it’s because WWASP programs have undertaken a vigorous effort lately to clean up their acts (or, to be more accurate, mostly their public images.) This is largely because of this site, and others like it. In other words, if you were not abused, odds are, you have the people who were brave enough to tell their stories to thank (as well as this site, for publishing and publicizing those stories…you’re welcome.)

      c) You’ve been out for two days, and I assume you “graduated” the program. That means you are still thoroughly enmeshed in the brainwashing to which the program subjects children (which, btw, could itself be considered abuse.) In my own case, it took several years for me to become willing to honestly talk about and deal with the abuse I experienced. This also seems to be the story with the majority of the 1,200+ members of our WWASP Survivors Facebook group. (You’re welcome to join, btw. Just click the link.)

      d) You’ve been out for two days, you graduated the program, and I doubt you are 18. This means you most likely have an exit contract. Therefore, you are living under the constant and awful threat of being sent back, perhaps for even petty violations, but talking shit about the program is almost certainly grounds under that document for your parents to pack you up and ship you off to claim Midwest’s “second trip free” guarantee. Your internet usage is also probably being strictly monitored. Bet once you get away from the controlled environment your folks provide, you end up singing a different tune. I certainly hope so, for your own sake.

      e) Isn’t it odd how there have been very few comments on this thread for months, and now suddenly there are several of you on here sticking up for “Mr. Ben” (you’re out of the program, call him Ben or Ben Trane or Fuckface, for crying out loud, you know you want to.) I’m sure that’s a total coincidence, though, and they aren’t using threats and manipulation to coerce you into making these comments (or just flat out making them themselves under fake names.) “Mr. Ben” would NEVER do anything dishonest.

      In conclusion, I’m glad you say you weren’t abused, but unless Midwest Academy has DRASTICALLY changed their program and business models, odds are that according to the actual best practices of the psychological and psychiatric care communities, as well as both federal and state laws, you probably were, in fact, abused. Again, whenever you figure that out, or when the nightmares start, or the flashbacks, and life becomes a bit too much to handle, come on by our Facebook group. It exists for program survivors to help other program survivors and support them as we all try to process, cope, and deal with what happened to us. I sincerely hope to see you there someday soon.


    • James Farris Says:

      I’ll stick to some of the more convincing arguments against Midwest Academy.

      1. Ben Trane like to compare the program to “bitter medicine” which although is unpleasantly tasting, ultimately helps people. The gaping hole in this analogy is that many professional endeavors (nursing, medicine, psychotherapy) have to be validated by SCIENCE to show that they are EFFECTIVE and SAFE.The entire program structure (the 103 rules, the “seminars”) have not been validated by SCIENCE, exposing teens to UNPROVEN and potentially UNSAFE “behavior modification” techniques.

      2. The structure the program purports to use to change behavior is called “Behaviorism.” Behaviorism has been discredited by the VAST MAJORITY of psychologists and psychiatrists for DECADES.

      3. Iowa state prisoners are legally mandated to have AT LEAST one hour of outside time per day. Midwest Academy does not have this mandate, effectively giving teens at Midwest Academy less rights than Iowa state prisoners.

      4. According to Iowa Administrative code of the Iowa DHS, foster children and those in “juvenile homes” are not allowed to be kept in isolation (aka “control”) rooms for more than 24 hours without a court order. This is because long stays in isolation can be psychologically damaging. However, in Midwest Academy, there is a 24 hour MINIMUM stay for those “acting out” in the small, concrete rooms called “OSS” or “Out of School Suspension.” This effectively allows teens in Midwest Academy to be kept in isolation for DAYS, WEEKS, and even MONTHS, even though the Iowa government recognizes that this is clearly not acceptable. These long stays in Midwest Academy DO happen, as I have personally experienced such a stay in OSS.

      5. Just because some teens “get something out of” being at Midwest Academy does not mean that the facility as a whole is not abusive. On Midwest Academy’s website they state that they can handle teens with a variety of mental illnesses. However, since the program has not even been verified to work or be safe for “regular” teens, there is even less support for these techniques to be used on the mentally ill. In fact, these techniques can cause such high stress levels that they actually make mental illness WORSE (as stress is CLEARLY a contraindication for those suffering with mental illness).

      6. There are plenty of teens who have developed PTSD from being exposed to these techniques used at Midwest Academy. I know one survivor who is disabled from his/her PTSD that was severely worsened after a long stay at Midwest Academy. I myself had nightmares where I would wake up screaming at the top of my lungs and hitting things for TWO YEARS (one year while in Midwest Academy and one year afterwards).

      7. Midwest Academy purports to teach teens to be “accountable,” but all this really turns out to be is the teen blaming themselves for everything that has ever happened to them. PARENTS are the ones who supposedly researched this facility. PARENTS are the ones that wrote the checks to pay for Midwest Academy. You can’t discredit parents as agents because the teen is “accountable.” PARENTS are just as much accountable for the decisions that PARENTS made, just as teens are accountable for the choices teens make. Being sent to Midwest Academy is not SOLELY the responsibility of the TEEN to take accountability for. PARENTS, STAFF, and the OWNER, Ben Trane, are human beings with brains just like teens are. WE ARE ALL ACCOUNTABLE, that includes Ben Trane being accountable for deciding how to structure the school, and a parent’s choice to send his/her child to this particular school. We ALL make choices, and it is the COMBINATION of choices that leads to outcomes, not just the teen’s “behaviors,” “acting out,” etc.


    • Allison Sullivan. Says:

      I agree with Allysa! For the 18 months I was there with her, I never once saw ANY KIND OF ABUSE!!!


  13. Parker Hammer Says:

    In addition to my last post, let me just add that the entire time I was at MWA (3 months) they took us outside for fresh air once…ONCE


  14. Allison Sullivan. Says:

    I was a student at MWA from 6-21-12 to 12-6-13. My life changed so much in those 18 months. Mwa saved my life. So please stop bashing the place. Some staff members are just there for the paycheck or to get what they feel is revenge on the program for what it did to them,but some staff are really there to help you. I plan on going back to work there soon to help kids. Mwa also has very good reasons for the things they do. You have OSS to teach you that you can not just go around doing whatever you want when you want. i would just ask yourself where you would really be if Midwest wasn’t apart of your life. For me I would be 6 feet under the ground.


  15. Roger P Says:

    So i was a student at MWA for 9 long months. I have very mixed feelings about Midwest. Part of me thinks that is was not that bad, that i learned alot and that im thankful for going their. But then i remember how it actually felt being their. Some people are not like me and can just brush things off and do what you need to do to make things better, but me i cant. I still can remember nights when i would literally cry till i fell asleep, i would have random outburst and freekouts. Even small thing would make me angry, needless to say i was a wreck. And on top of being away from everyone i love, i had to deal with staff like Mr. Mike G or Miss Viki who where literally sadistic and would do everything they could do to make you freak out, without being fired. What im trying to say is that it is really not a good environment and the really sad part is that they will never change it! Midwest not only will never change how they do things, and thats sad because they really have an opportunity to really help struggling kids out, but their to busy making us worry about looking out of line and blurting out, instead of the real issues that got us their, for me drugs. At Midwest the only CD (chemical dependency) group is once a week and only for level 3s and up. I can safely say that Midwest did NOTHING for my drug addiction, what got me their in the first place. The only part about Midwest that works is the fear of going back. Oh yeah one last interesting point, only about 30% of student actually graduate.


  16. ANON Says:

    I am 27 years old, and have not been to Midwest academy in 10 years, but I will never forget the horror of my 9 months there. I pray things have drastically changed. It completely slays me to see the testimonies of all these kids and remember my own trauma. As an upper level, I was required to watch the kids in isolation on a grainy camera for hours. I did not catch a little developmentally disabled girl (probably mentally 7 or 8) slip her wrist wrap around her neck as she lay on her stomach. Her hair was long and in the way of my view. It was hours before someone saw she was not responsive. She had burst every blood vessel in her face and eyes. The ambulance took her away and I never saw her again. I blamed myself for years. The way the school is set up is horrifying. I am currently getting my masters degree, and work with severely emotionally disturbed children. I urge all parents to study their techniques and read as many reviews as possible before deciding upon this route. I do not know the heart of the owners and staff. I do know their education level is not high enough, and there was no real therapy provided whatsoever when I went there. I wish they would shut this place down. As for the kids who sing praises, if you are being manipulated into it, I know what it is like to do whatever it takes to get out. I was that “perfect dorm leader” that did the program in a matter of months. Do what you have to to get out and then take a stand to prevent this for other kids.


  17. olga Says:

    Ben was the one not letting me speak to my mom in Spanish on the phone ( she doesn’t speak English). He said we are in america and my mom should learn how to speak English! Really?! So why even have a phone call? The one phone call a month that we would get to call home! And what was up with those seminars???


  18. shaun mccarthy Says:

    I went to MWA from september 23rd 2013 to september 30th so a year an 6 days if I’m correct. I would have to disagree with Midwest and its ways. 1- treatment by peers in there is not good.
    2- you are starved to death and the only way you get more food is by getting fake merit points
    3- medical treatment was not the best due to personal and from others experiences people like nurse ivy would say take a ibuprofen and come back at noon meds or something stupid.
    4- with the small diet as a level one buddy doing the extreme running and cardio workouts doses not go well together.
    5- if you refuse to deal with the program they somehow get rights to set you in a brick room with concreat floor 6ft in width 7 ft in length and get at each meal one sandwich box of raisins and half orange.
    6- when i was a level 3 and i watched oss i watched a 11 year old girl poop, pee all over a oss room and play with it and then she cut her finger and sprayed blood all over the room along with her fiecies.
    7- your not allowed to talk because its a privilege unless your level 2 n up
    8- that place had flies in the showers
    9- if a student wasn’t like by any kid and that kid blow up and started fig hint when no staff was there to witness the restraint upper levels would chock or gut punch the student.
    10- staff members which would hold double standards.

    i have plenty more to say but I’m sure people up here ^ know the same stuff as me


  19. Connor Beekman Says:

    Living hell.


  20. Zach Devereaux Says:

    So I was a student at Midwest for a little over a year, and my experience was by far the worst of my life.

    Don’t, get me wrong, not all of the staff there are as bad as some people say they are. there are a couple that start to work there, realize how miserable we actually are, and actually do something to try and help. unfortunately, those kinds of staff came along very rarely, and when they did, they would end up getting fired or leaving only a couple of weeks into the job. the “administration” or “family reps” of MWA, in my opinion, were solely there to manipulate parents to leave their children there until they graduate. the staff there, except for a couple like Mr. Derron or Mr. Austin, were just very degrading, verbally abusive, unqualified, sarcastic people with no ambition in life. most of them smoke and reek of cigarettes. a lot of them power trip, and even take out their emotional issues that happen outside of MWA on the students by taunting them and giving them demerits.

    When you don’t do things exactly their way, they end up putting you in a little cement box until you sit certain way for twenty four hours.

    The food there was absolutely horrible, giving us tiny portions of nasty food. We constantly found both dead and alive mice and rats where we ate, and it was disgusting. the admin at MWA put in no effort to get rid of the rodents, or improve on the food or the portions. on top of that, we were forced to do long work outs, which probably resulted with the loss or more calories than we consumed.

    The programs system runs entirely off of staff and students with higher ranking and/or authority. so pretty much, whatever they say goes. if an upper level student wanted to keep a lower level student level one for their whole entire program, they could do it very easily. students there have no opinion, or say in anything. MWA refuses to let students talk to those of higher authority (such as CPS) if they feel like they are being mistreated.

    The reps at Midwest will lie and manipulate the parents to leave their child there by taking advantage of how desperate they are and by telling the parent that their child is not getting better and that they have the same problems they had when they first got there.

    on top of that, when it comes to disciplining the students, there is never a real investigation. the staff just assume, and hand out the consequence. they don’t even care to investigate, even knowing that with every consequence they give they are taking a student farther away from home. And that’s all a student wants when they are there; all they want is to go home.

    Honestly over all MWA is just a corrupt place. They expect the students to act like robots, and not make one mistake. they openly call themselves a “program”. well, you cannot “program” human beings into what you want them to be. everybody is there own person, and if we were meant to be different God would have made us that way. I understand if they try to help us change our actions if they are bad or illegal, but forcing us to change our personality is NOT okay.

    Midwest did not help me at all except for helping me break a couple of bad habits. but other than that I came out of that place way worse than when I went in, and I am mentally traumatized by anything that reminds me of it. it has developed trust issues between my parents and I, and I often still have anxiety attacks from it. it has overall just made me a angry and fucked up person. if you are a parent reading this, than please trust me when I say that MWA is not the solution, and it will damage you child more than it will help them.
    you cannot “fix” a human being. we are not broken.


  21. Anonymous Says:

    This place truly ruined my life.


  22. Anonymous Says:

    I can’t agree more. I was a 13yr old female when I entered the program. It…. ruined…… my……. life. So sad. But I beg all prospective parents to please reconsider your options!!!


  23. Brandon Wilson Says:

    I was a student there from September 26, 2006 to November 2, 2007. I just now found this site and after almost 8 years since leaving that place still has scared my life. I wasn’t a bad kid but didn’t like to listen and wanted to learn everything the hard way. This school helped me graduate high school at 17 but other then that it was horrible. I had a few good staff members I knew but I couldn’t stand the silence and breaking us down to nothing in groups making you share when not ready. And if you don’t shut up and walk a line u don’t get points which means you don’t move up. They then manipulate your parents to thinking were lying and acting how we did before we left. One letter a week? Never saw or talked to my family on the phone for first 6 months!!! PC1 was first time and man was that hard….If you hire some local hillbilly ass holes to run the “familys’ each day and bully us n give us consequence for no reason? Have the staff was bs and so was the whole structure!!! If your reading this and went to MWA you know that feeling where you just wanna run away or almost just act worse!!

    My name is Brandon Wilson and if you went to the school when I did you might remember me I was the one with Scott Gustufson who jumped out of the Pride bedroom window and RAN THE FUCK AWAY!! We were caught the next morning at 8am by Ben Trane and them and was placed in “In School Suspension” which is a small box room with concrete floor and while wall with a huge florescent light on for 24hours straight!! All I had was a twin mattress on floor and a blanket for 2 days! The night we ran was on Halloween and i left November 2nd so I was in there a few days. We had no shoes cause there locked away so ran through woods and creeks with socks on and sweaters and was winter so do the math we were in bad shape when they found us! And they had a nurse look at us and then we showered after 2 days. Then all of a sudden upper levels open door said u need to come with me and they took me to the front of building that I had not seen for over a year when my parents had brought me there. I saw a giant garbage bag so I knew what that meant from previous kids leaving and next thing I knew I was outside with my family going home.

    To this day I’m 25 a college graduate working downtown Chicago and have a 6 year old son named Zachary. Life couldn’t be better but if anyone reading this thinking about there kids or if they should go save yourself 50k and do your research and find somewhere that will actually help not Scar you kid.

    I could write a book about this place and the hell I went through as a teenager. Just knowing there is kids in that school at this second makes me sad and think about them..Hopefully they shut this place down SOON!!!

    Take it easy survivors!


    • chad Says:

      My wife and I put our adopted 13yr old girl in Midwest in april of 2015. We read the comments of people who said not to go there but decided to do it anyway. we dropped her off on a Thursday and she had a couple of blisters from a sunburn on her legs and we had been taking care of them with medicine. the next day they took her to the E.R. were she proceeded to tell the Doctor how we tied her to trees and didn’t feed her. Mind you this child came from a bad home and 13yrs off bad upbringing. She had them so convinced that we were so bad that they called DCFS. By the time she got done talking she had the staff including Ben Trane believing all her stories. As soon as DCFS came knocking on our door Ben and the family jane were calling DCFS and going behind our back. this is a school for troubled teens and instead of checking out the problem MIDWEST ACADAMEY and The DCFS worker keep calling each other to make up a long list of charges against us that were unfouned after 2 months of waiting. when we got the DCFS report we were picking our mouths up to find out that BEN TRANE-MRS JANE(the family) were lying to us the whole 4 months our child was in that school. she didn’t have to go to school 90% of the time as she just got up and was aloud to go to Intervention if she didn’t want to do something. They also were in with the Case worker as they tried to take our parental rights away from us. this all took place after they DCFS case was closed!!!! we also were going to pull her out of there because of the monthly cost and Ben and the case worker started plotting a way to keep her there and make us pay for it. We had a sit down meeting with Ben and told him we were out of money and couldn’t raise anymore he said not to worry he wanted her to stay and we all would figure it out. Before we left we got to see our daughter for the first time in 4 months and as we talked Ben found out from her that she lied about the Accusations she made about us. He couldn’t believe she had been lying to him. when we got home and my wife and I talked we new something still wasn’t right and the following Monday we had a call from the case worker and was asking how our “private meeting” went. As we talked to her we found out she had been talking behind our backs and we told her that there are privacy laws she is crossing and not to call Ben anymore. then we called Ben up and told him the same thing. amazingly enough the next day they called and said when can you come get her. They kicked her out of the program cause they couldn’t bully us anymore. So all in all I would agree that this place is not for teaching kids anything except that if they don’t want to do it then they don’t have to.


      • Lauren Says:

        I was there with your daughter, and I totally understand where you are coming from. I also met you at your parent interview. I’m sorry I was not more open with you about MWA. I was afraid I was going to lose my level, and was more focused on getting my 15 minute phone call home than anything.


      • Sydney Says:

        I was also there with your daughter. I apologize as well for not saying anything to you guys ahead of time, due to the loss of level status if we were to say something bad. My heart goes out to your family.


    • Eric V Says:

      Brandon Wilson I was in the room when that happened haha good to hear you are doing good man.


    • Ben Novak Says:

      Sorry for your hell that you went through.


  24. Jon decoteau Says:

    If you think mwa was shitty, casa by the sea was 10x as bad. My experiences with both made Leavenworth federal prison seem like heaven. Just saying.


  25. Lauren Says:

    The entire facilitiy got scabies while I was there which led to many students sleeping in khaki pants and polos without underwear on, and then being forced to wear it again the next day. Along with that I was restrained by Mike Greenslaugh while in intervention, and standing still inside my room (vids prove it unless they were deleted) where I was then slammed on the ground and picked up and slammed back down repeatedly on the cement floor. I had a bruise on my right eye which was incredibly noticeable and inflamed. I also was restrained the night before and had bruises on my arms. I also witnessed a girl being dragged across the ground by the clinical director in an admit to restrain her even though she wasn’t the one that did it! The other 3 men tackled the 15 year old female 2 of which were directors Mr. Devon and Mr. Ray. They lift weights intensely, under Devon Nade on Facebook. He also lacks a degree in social working, and/or counseling. Then why is he leading seminars? I agree with most of the stuff posted previously, a lot of messed up crap happens there but on the bright side I received my high school diploma and learned nothing doing it also blew 5 grand a month for 10 until getting the boot. I’ve graduated other programs, and made it to upper levels at MWA until fighting against the abuse. How can we get this place shutdown? Or at least to a healthy point.


    • Ben Novak Says:

      I can personally vouch for this being true. Scabies was proven to be present in Midwest Academy several times, all of which could have been prevented.


  26. Emily Beaman Says:

    January 2015, I was brought to Midwest Academy. My doctor, knowing my frequent hospital visits and my trouble with psychosis and depression, recommended the home in hopes I would rebuild myself to be a happier and healthier person. When I came to Midwest,  I loved it. Miss. Layani, the directors wife, invited me to join her case load with only two other girls. She quickly became the mom I never had as mine was abusive and left. I fell in love with the program and the upper level girls. I did, of course,  notice things that were unusual. Like why no student outside of upper levels could look in the mysterious room that a heavy door protected that screams often came from. Or where kids went when they acted up or even why we were not allowed to talk to our families. I moved up quickly and within my first week and a half, became a level two. I felt great. That is until the day it all changed. One day, a thirteen year old girl was talking, which is against the rules. Two large men were brought in as a request of the staff. This girl, who could not have weighed over 100 pounds, was slammed against the table and picked up and taken out of the room into the mysterious room. I was shocked. That other girl was on miss. Layani’s caseload to. Where was Miss. Layani? I requested to see her. I told her when I saw her that day about what had happened. She didn’t look surprised. Instead she told me not to be like that girl and bad things wouldn’t happen. I felt trapped. I couldn’t talk to anyone, couldn’t call home. So I tried to get to a place where I could. I attempted to jump from the stairway railing that night. Instead of the hospital, I was restrained and dragged by the same men. I tried to fight them but my arm was twisted so hard by them I was afraid it was going to snap. I became really scared as we approached the mysterious door. I then saw inside rows of boxes, actual iscolation boxes with one way handles and 24 hour video streaming attached to a large computer over seeing all the boxes. Inside each box is nothing but concrete walls painted white. No bed, nothing but walls. I was thrown into a small, dark box where I was kept overnight. The next morning Miss. Layani came to see me. As she pulled me out, I saw the little thirteen year old girl on the computer screen inside a replica of my box.  Miss. Layani told me since I was so good, she would let me out without having to follow normal procedure. When I returned to the normal program, I was an outcast. As the weeks went on I stayed quiet until I decided upon my next move. I punched a girl for trying to take me to the box. I figured jail would give me a phonecall, as well as freedom from the academy. Yet, I was dragged back to the box. No one came to see me for weeks. So I asked the staff watching the computer how to get out. She told me I had to sit in a staff approved position for 24 hours, then write a 6,000 word essay on why I loved the academy. Then the clinical team would think about releasing me. I did that. Time after time I would go to the box for everything from talking to fighting all to be let out and put back at zero points every time. One day, I was escorted to a small room where I, for the first time in months, saw my dad. But something was wrong. He told me,  he was given five minutes to say a script that Miss. Layani had prepared. That was the only way he could see me. I wanted to see him more so I gave up fighting the program and became level two again. I was at level three points when I realized what a level three requirement was. In order to make it to level three and keep level three,  you have to make sure no one in the box escapes. You are responsible for restraining, and watching the person in the box. I wanted to vomit. The night I found out about it,  I attacked the girl who had watched my friend in the box. I was thrown back into the box but this time I was kept there for two months. After the months, they transfered me to the boys side boxes for better security. On my way, I pretended to be tired. My escorts, gripping both my arms,  were my age and around the same size. I attacked them and ran at the only door I could. I was immediately pinned down by a female staff when I fought back and got up. I was almost fully up when I was tazed in the neck and picked up and locked behind the box once again. I cried so hard. I’ll never forget that feeling. Like no one in the world can hear you. Days turned into weeks without seeing anyone. Just me and the four walls. I stopped eating, resulting in a fifteen pound weightloss. I weighed 124 before the weight was lost. I came out of the box in bones. I gave up. I did what I had to do but I had no energy,  no motivation, no feeling. My only drive to get up each day was another day closer to being eighteen and able to go to a homeless shelter and leave. I would cry every night. One night I grabbed whatever last bit of energy I had and tried to fight one of the girls. I lost. Every staff came over and restrained me. I was nothing but bones, but I was expressed as dangerous to everyone by the staff. The next morning, I was let out and escorted to the bathroom. I grabbed a bottle cap I found on the table on my way back and went back into the box. I thought, “This is it, I’m going to end this.” And made deep cuts on my arm. I was pinned back but they were to late. Blood was everywhere. They called the ambulance. Within an hour, I was brought to the hospital where the nightmare ended. I begged to go to an inpatient. The doctor prayed over me and sent me to Saint Luke’s 3 east youth inpatient. That night,  the nurses gave me a radio and for the first time in seven months, I could listen to music and talk to my dad. They gave me alot of hot chocolate and stayed up with me on the nights when I would get my voices. One nurse,  would even bring in movies and talk with me every day about how I was doing. I began to get my strength back. They took photographs of the bruises that went up and down my neck and arms. One day I was playing four square with the other kids admitted when I was brought down to a small room where to my horror, Miss. Layani was sitting. I backed out and asked a staff to come with me. They sent not one, but two amazing nurses to help me in dealing with this. Miss. Layani smiled and tried to hug me as of nothing had happened. After the talk I was presented with two options, go back to Midwest and have a fresh start, or take my chances and go to a different program that could potentially be worse. I told her I would never see her again. When the meeting finished, Miss. Layani requested to see me alone to say goodbye. As I walked in, she hugged me and cried. Then she told me,  “Listen to me. You do whatever the next program asks nomatter what your opinion is so you can go home and this can be over. I love you.” I never saw her again. A week later I was sent to Midwest Center for family and youth where I stayed for a month and a half before being released and sent home. Currently, the psychosis that Midwest’s doctor said would never go away, dissapered. I have no voices, no depression and I’m even graduating in a month from high school. And I have a job. I have friends, and I wake up each day excited. For a long time after the incedent, I dealt with nightmares and panic attacks about the box. But my best friend and I work through those everyday. I couldn’t be more thankful to the people involved in shutting down Midwest Acedemy. I would still be there if I had not cut. Now all of those kids are free. 


    • Ben Novak Says:

      Madam, I thank you so much for speaking against the school. I personally went through some of the same things you went through, and I can definitely say, without the slightest bit of doubt, that I am sorry for the hell you went through.


  27. Elizabeth Davis Says:

    As a student at Midwest Academy from June 25, 2014 to January 29,2016 I can honestly and full-heartedly say that MWA was the most amazing experience. It saved my life, my family relationships, my sense of self-worth, helped me discover who I am, my purpose in life and helped me to let go of so much past baggage, non-working habits and addictions.
    For all the false information on here about Midwest Academy, I was there for a lot of the students who have posted things on here and I don’t know how you sleep at night with such dishonesty at your own disposal when I witnessed your programs first-hand.
    Please do not believe the lies, MWA was never a WWASP facility and never will be. Instead they provide a safe, and loving environment!


  28. Elizabeth Says:

    I find it interesting how I posted a comment Pro-Midwest Academy on Feb, 5 2016 and the website will not post the comment with the excuse the comment is till ‘awaiting moderation’ yet recent comments posted Feb 8,2016 that are against MWA were posted already. What happened to freedom of speech? If this website is all about being fair they should listen to EVERYONE not just those who agree with them.


  29. Ernest Crosby Says:

    I am Ernest Crosby, I am currently working on a documentary that includes subject matter pertaining to Midwest Academy. I plan on visiting Iowa in the next week. I would really appreciate if any survivors, past employees, or persons affiliated with the program would like to speak with me in regards to information on what went on at Midwest Academy.

    Thank you

    Ernest Crosby III
    Dreamland and Co.


  30. Josh Paliotti Says:

    i left in november and reading this makes me sick. this is all true, very very true. i am willing to stand up for the students abused at this hell hole. Did this place help me? Yes, but only because it was work or get locked in a not ventalted cement box until u do work. We tried telling, but they wouldnt let us. We’d get dropped if we mentioned anything about police or DHS or anything. It was there way or no way. I was held down by two students a night and screamed cause they were going to do things to me. No staff came, and i barely gt them off of me alone. It was the hardest thing i’ve ever done.


  31. Paul Says:

    I’ve never met a bigger group of whiners and band wagoners…I was a student at MWA from 7/08-5/09 and I will say it definitely saved my life and changed me. It was an absolutely horrible experience don’t get me wrong, OSS (the lock down rooms), ISS (the self help tape room), lack of food, compassion, etc made for pure misery. however we all know I wasn’t sent there after one mistake or one time misbehaving, it was a last resort, my parents didn’t want it, I sure didn’t either, but it was he only option seen. Sorry you wimps want to cry about how “bad” it was but learn from it and move on. You sound ridiculous. I’m just guessing but based on the ability to cry online your not in jail…you learned not to be an ass and respect authority…if you did that as a kid you wouldn’t have been at MWA…so basically it did help you…it wasn’t supposed to be fun or easy.njail isn’t either of those things and that’s the path we were on. If you weren’t on that path, jail,n I still don’t feel bad for you or want to hear your whining because there wasn’t unwarranted punishments or “consequences” you got what you deserved, if you followed the rules you had nothing to worry about, just like the real world, follow the rules and you’ll be ok. learn and move on…your embarrassing yourself ( there was no clinical team to assess our essays staff counted the words and let us out stop lying, we all knew you had to sit in structure and not cause a disturbance to get out, o yeah and everybody knows you can’t fight …. Come your arguments sound silly…)


  32. Paul Says:

    U deleted my experience….what a way to show you true colors. Bottom feeders…


  33. Ben Novak Says:

    I should mention that I was at MWA for almost 18 months, and I was subject to several kinds of physical abuse. Including the several instances of bruising from the “restraining” that the staff members used.


  34. Fidel Castro Says:

    This is hot.


Leave a Reply