The History Of Sorensons Ranch School

At the time of its inception Burnell worked as a teacher in the Whittier Unified School District in Southern California, and used his spare time recruiting for youth in and around the area for the summer program. Some of the original facilities also served as a deer camp through the early 1960’s. During the 1970’s Burnell was the principal owner with Carrol and had several years representing the Youth Conservation Corps, which was a newly formed organization to provide youth from various backgrounds teambuilding, educational, and outdoor experiences while doing projects with the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service. Many of the projects the youth did during those years still exist to this day in the surrounding outdoors of Grass Valley. It was in 1984 that Burnell and Carrol retired from their teaching careers in Southern California to live full time in Koosharem. That same year Sorenson’s Ranch School started to give year-round assistance to adolescents needing help. SRS quickly formed the basics to become an accredited school and a licensed treatment facility. Because Sorenson’s Ranch School was one of the first in its field, the State of Utah did not have a clear way to oversee and inspect our facilities to care for troubled youth, so the State initially did our license through Youth Corrections to provide treatment. Later this was done directly with the Department of Licensing. Wayne Holland, who is the current Chairman for the Utah Democratic Party, was the original licensor. Later it became Ken Stettler, who is now the Director of Utah’s Office of Licensing. Because of the declining health of Burnell, Shane and Jill Sorenson took over the helm of the school around 1998. Burnell remained actively involved up to the time of his death on December 27, 2004. Layne Bagley took over as the primary admissions person around the same time. Today the Clinical Director is Dave Neslen, who has specialty training in Reactive Attachment Disorder, ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, along with his extensive experience with behaviorally challenged adolescents. Dave coordinates his efforts with our other primary therapists who bring a vast array of experience to today’s SRS. Along the way Sorenson’s Ranch School decided it would be beneficial for families to get a hospital certification so we became accredited with JCAHO. Originally many insurance carriers would provide some assistance to the families for in-patient care, but since the popularity of managed care it has become increasingly difficult for our families to get assistance. With the addition of many buildings the facilities have blossomed, having a school building, a gymnasium, a library/administration building, a lodge, industrial arts building, and the largest wood barn built in Utah in the last 50 years. Troubled teens seem to respond well with the animals that our barn houses. With the consolidation of the farms, Shane Sorenson also assists in the sowing and harvesting of the crops, which are needed for the many animals on the ranch. Currently, the animals are comprised of horses, cattle, bison, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, peacocks, rabbits, and goats. The progression of the dormitories has been quite drastic during the 40-plus years youth have been here in Koosharem. In the early 1960’s the cabins all had no bathrooms or running water, only had one common bathroom on each side of the cabins for each specific gender. Also, indoor heating was placed in the individual cabins in the 1970’s, which consisted of small wood burning stoves that the students/staff had to keep stocked in order to keep the cabins warm. With the 1980’s brought the advent of indoor plumbing into each cabin along with central heating. Just this last year the dormitories received an overall renovation with very nice appointments and an outside facelift with lodge-pole siding. The last 40 years have seen a total transformation in the comfort and coziness for our students’ dormitory living. In summary, Sorenson’s Ranch School has from its inception had the goal of continuing to improve its services for its clients. Rather than become a static institution, SRS has chosen to be a facility that is ever improving, growing, and changing with the times. We look to the future with excitement and hope for our staff and the clientele they serve. You can learn more about Sorenson’s Ranch School by visiting or calling the admissions office at 1-888-830-4802