Welcome to Awakenings Academy

Deeply Integrated in Healing Families

Hillcrest Family Services is a nationally accredited agency that provides Residential Treatment Program for behaviorally challenged (troubled or at-risk) teenage boys, located in Dubuque, Iowa.

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For questions and more information about our program for troubled teen boys, please call Carrie Preston at 563-583-7357, or email carrie.preston@localhost

About Awakenings Academy, a Home for Troubled Boys

We welcome your behaviorally challenged teen boy into a safe and therapeutic learning environment. Utilizing Dr. Ross Greene’s Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) Model, with a Trauma Informed Care emphasis, our staff of professionals await the opportunity to help re-engage your child and reunite your family.

Watch our video.

Who We Serve: At-Risk Youth and Their Families

Awakenings Academy provides residential treatment for troubled boys from the ages of 12-17 that may include; the experience of childhood trauma or adverse childhood experiences, minor mental health and substance abuse concerns, minor behavioral concerns, difficulty functioning in a regular school setting, family troubles, adoption concerns, sibling difficulties, and/or other conflict management concerns.

Treatment Philosophy

Awakenings takes a holistic approach in the services we provide that considers the whole person—body, mind, spirit, and emotions—in the quest for optimal health and wellness.

Our program utilizes Dr. Ross Greene’s Collaborative and Proactive Solutions Model. This evidence based practice focuses on the premise that “kids do well if they can” rather than the premise that are kids are unmotivated and “do well if they want to.”

Treatment Model

We assume that the troubled teen wants to do well, but lacks the necessary social, emotional, behavioral skills to respond adaptively to the demands of the situation. We then view the challenging (maladaptive) behavior as a skills deficit, very similar to a skill deficit in reading and other academic subjects. Challenging behavior occurs when there are demands placed on the child to use the very skills the child is lacking. Since challenging behavior in response to specific unsolved problems is usually highly predictable, problems can be solved proactively and collaboratively.


Awakenings Academy provides two educational opportunities for the teen boys enrolled in our program.  One being with the Dubuque Community Schools and the other is with the Holy Family School system, a parochial Catholic School system in Dubuque, Iowa.

We will work with each family to determine the best educational fit for each student.

Mind and Body Fitness

Awakenings health and wellness program offers alternative therapies that feed the soul and strengthen the body. From fitness training and nutrition guidance through an onsite organic garden, to yoga and guided meditation, the boys participate in a comprehensive spirituality program that integrates body, mind and spirit.

Organic Gardening

The teen boys will be served a natural/organic diet throughout their stay with us. This will be accomplished through our own natural/organic garden produce and our bee keeping operation.

The garden project and bee keeping will be accomplished through a continuing partnership with the Four Mounds Foundation.

Yoga and Meditation

Therapeutic yoga offers a mindfulness approach to yoga.  Using a combination of classical yoga techniques and elements of contemporary body-mind psychology, therapeutic yoga encourages a deeper connection with the self.

Through this deeper connection, we are able to know ourselves more fully. And out of this knowing, we are more easily moved to embrace the opportunity for change, growth and enhanced well-being in body, feelings, thought, and spirit.

Physical Fitness and Recreation

505913249-rWe will utilize a high and lows ropes course operation in partnership with Teambuilding Blocks, to ensure the teen boys are getting sufficient outdoor experiences that also encourage teamwork and lifetime success. Some features of this course include; over fifteen low ropes elements with varying levels of difficulty, a high ropes course, with a 30 foot climbing wall that features an inverted element.

Hillcrest has certified six of their staff in the low and high ropes components. Our recreational activities will include utilizing our local resources through activities such as; camping, geocaching, hiking, canoeing, snow skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, and fishing. On campus, the children will have access to our gym, indoor rock wall, and wellness room.

Family Involvement

The families, including siblings, are seen as an integral part of the boy’s care within the program. The expectation will be that the families are involved in all aspects of programming.

There will be expected family involvement on site, at least every quarter through a family education day.

The Holistic Home

The program home consists of a six bedroom house that features a three car garage, a four seasons room, rec room, educational space, vocational space, living room, dining room, kitchen, mud room, and a large fenced in backyard with raised bed natural/organic gardens.

This boys’ home is nestled nicely in a residential neighborhood in Dubuque, Iowa, close to both downtown and the west end. The home is near the city’s Flora Park, which houses a city pool, ball diamonds, pickle ball courts, horseshoe pits, and playground equipment.

Meet the Awakenings Academy Leadership

John Bellini

Vice President of Awakenings Academy


John has seventeen years of public and nonprofit child welfare experience. He received his BA in Criminal Justice from Loras College (1999) and his Master’s in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Walden University (2015).
For the last twelve years, John has held several leadership positions in the nonprofit sector while also serving on several statewide child welfare workgroups. Throughout this time, he has focused his efforts on delivering changes in how children are served within the child welfare community, emphasizing trauma informed care, Dr. Ross Greene’s Collaborative and Proactive Solutions Model, and holistic interventions in an effort to evoke change and improve the lives of the most vulnerable youth.


Carrie Preston

Admissions Coordinator


Carrie has worked at Hillcrest Family Services for over twenty-five years in a variety of positions. She continues to focus her efforts in working with children & families and has a wealth of knowledge about the services offered at Hillcrest. Carrie has simplified the admission process to make it family friendly. She helps families navigate through the steps ensuring that they feel comfortable about the difficult choice of placement of their child outside of the home.