BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

BBC Homepage
Inside Out
East Midlands
North East
North West
South East
South West
West Midlands
Yorks & Lincs
Go to BBC1 programmes page (image: BBC1 logo)

Contact Us

   Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire: Monday 6th January, 2003


Pupils at a boot camp exercising
BOOT CAMP| Pupils enduring a regimented life

Inside Out met Susie El Madawi, the unruly Halifax teenager banished to a Mexican boot camp. This extreme action by her mother was a desperate attempt to stamp out Susie’s terrible behaviour.

It’s a tough, regimented life in boot camps, reminiscent of military training.

American parents send their most defiant adolescents to boot camps to ‘break’ them.

It is hoped the children will return home a ‘good solider’ who will obey authority and improve behaviour at home and school.

Sarah’s story

Sarah El Madawi
Sarah El Madawi felt she had failed as a mother

Sarah El Madawi was becoming increasingly frustrated with her 16 year old daughter’s rebellious behaviour.

Sarah says, "My fear was that she would end up dead, pregnant at 15 or a prostitute because she was being manipulated by older people."

Sarah decided on drastic action when Susie stopped coming home at night.


Sarah searched the net for boot camps. She found Casa by the Sea in Ensenada, Mexico.

Susie thought she was going on holiday when her and her mum boarded the flights. She was unaware she was heading for an unforgettable stay in a boot camp.

Sarah’s elaborate deception plan worked. Susie was tricked into her sentence in another continent, another culture and a long way from home.


The Regime

Forced physical training

Tough regime

Personal items forbidden

Strict silence codes

24-hour surveillance

Pupils under lock and key

Accompaniment to the toilets

Male/female segregation

Susie has now been at the boot camp for months.

She describes the shock of the day she arrived, "I felt betrayed, angry and deceived. I felt lied to."

Susie and 600 other wayward teenagers are forced to follow a programme of rules, which reward good behaviour.

This regime includes activities such as, cleaning, physical training and adhering to silence codes.

But forget reward of chocolate or days out. Even a stint in the laundry room is seen as a privilege.

The campers don’t get a chance to brood.

Even at mealtimes, they are bombarded with ‘inspirational’ tapes.


After three solid months of good behaviour, Susie has earned the chance to speak to her mother for the first time. She says;

Susie El Madawi
Susie is doing well at the boot camp

"It was one of the best feelings I've ever felt,"

"Even thought I was so far away from home I felt close to her."

The rift between mother and daughter is now healing.

But it remains to be seen whether Susie will emerge from the camp an ‘angel’.

Although they change a number of troubled teens, some therapists doubt the effectiveness of such camps.

They would argue that adolescents need to tackle their underlying emotional and behavioural issues, rather than running miles on a muddy track carrying a huge log.

Inside Out will be following Susie's progress later in the series.

See also ...

BBCi: Parenting teens
BBCi: Teens

On the rest of the web
Casa by the Sea
US boot camps

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

This week's stories

The Pilgrims' Way
Take a journey on one of the South East's most historic routes.

Cornish tea
Inside Out goes behind the scenes at Cornwall's tea plantation.

Storm chasers
Join the storm chasers in search of Yorkshire's worst weather..

More from Inside Out

Inside Out: Yorkshire & Lincolnshire
View the archive to see stories you may have missed.

BBC Where I Live

Find local news, entertainment, debate and more ...

North Yorkshire
South Yorkshire
Meet your
Inside Out
Go to our profile of Morland Sanders (image: Morland Sanders)

Morland Sanders
your local Inside Out presenter.

Contact us
Contact the Yorkshire & Lincolnshire team with the issues that affect you.

Free email updates

Keep in touch and receive your free and informative Inside Out updates.


Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Tamie, Phoenix, AZ

My daughter is also at Casa by the Sea and has been for 14 months now.  Casa is not a 'boot camp".  It is a behavioral modification treatment center and boarding school.  

Kids do not wear military style clothing, they wear uniforms, much like you would find at any private school.  You know, khaki pants, long sleeved shirts with button down collars and ties.  

Secondly, they do not use physical activity as a form of discipline.

And finally, Casa, and all of the WWASP schools, do treat the underlying emotional problems of the child and the family.  

They promote whole and healthy families through education, growth and change.  

The students and parents attend seminars seperately and together. Students attend group therapy on a regular basis and may also get individual therapy as needed.  In addition to treating their emotional issues, students continue their education through an American accredited Academy.  

Janice, Riverside, USA

As a parent sending a child to a school like this is very hard, but until you have been in that place yourself, dealing with an out of control teen who is on the path to self destruction, you should not judge.

My son has truly changed his life, he now has a vision and a goal for his life and intends to live it with gratitude and love. He is ready to take challenges and contiue on his journey.

Also, he has graduated high school at Casa by the Sea six months early, that alone is a great feat as he was 18 months behind his grade level when he entered the school.

On the day we brought him home, he sincerely thanked us for sending him to Casa.


I am British, but live in the States and my daughter is at Casa by the Sea.

For three years we saw her spiral downwards into a life of drugs, heavy drinking, dropping out of school, trouble with the law etc. I feared for her life and wondered if she would ever pull out it, seeing as she intended to leave home as soon as possible.

We tried every avenue of help available and nothing worked. In the end she went to Casa.

Yes, it works on behaviour modification. And the problem with that?

It is a warm and caring environment. My daughter is clean and sober and working on getting back on track. They don't wear army fatigues or run around carrying logs.

She seems relieved to be taken out of the destructive spiral she was in, where she was losing everything she ever cared about.

She is making up the education that she lost. She has made great friends, has many happy days and doesn't hate us.

We did it because we love her enough to risk losing her love in order to save her life.

Perhaps if a few more people would take responsibility for their children when they lose themselves, we'd have a few less problems in our society.


My daughter had started to get into trouble at the beginning of 7th grade. I took her to a psychologist, but this outlet didn't make any difference.

She began to hang out with kids who at her age were already in drug and alcohol rehab programs. By February 2001, my daughter was going to rave clubs. We learned of runaway plans the week of March 9, 2001, and shortly thereafter we had her escorted to Casa by the Sea.

We did not send her there to "break" her, and she is not "broken." She was broken before she got there. She became whole at Casa.

She examined what her values were, determined what it meant to live her life according to the values that SHE developed, decided what she wanted her life to look like, and developed a strategy to get to that life.

We've seen tremendous changes in her since March 2001, and are very proud of her. She just finished precalculus in the accredited educational program and now says she wants to be a physicist.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy