A brief history of the Penikese Island School
The Penikese Island School was established in 1973 by Woods Hole residents George Cadwalader and David Masch. The school was grounded in their conviction that a remote, spartan environment hosting a family-scale, strongly interdependent community would provide a highly-effective therapeutic environment for troubled boys. The first students and staff built the island house, which was modeled on an early New England farm house, heated by wood, lit by kerosene lamps, and without television, telephones, or other modern distractions.
The School initially worked with a number of different cohorts of boys, settling eventually into working primarily with students referred by the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, and later the Department of Children and Families. The School is remarkable for its success in turning around the lives of its boys and has received accolades from many quarters, including local and national media outlets and several books. In addition, Penikese enjoys generous philanthropy and other forms of support from the community locally and beyond.
In 2011 the Penikese Island School Board of Directors recognized that the working with publicly-funded children in a remote setting had become impossible to sustain. They resolved to re-invent Penikese with a more sustainable model, but still committed as ever to working with troubled children in need of a therapeutic program where they are given an opportunity for a new start. The resulting program is a collaboration between the Penikese Island School and the Becket Family of Services, and is known simply as Penikese. While the new program retains the elements that have made Penikese so special – most especially the island setting – it adds a new focus on working with adolescent boys affected by substance abuse.