Press Release: West Virginia Resident Chronicles Life at Pressley Ridge Wilderness Camp

Pressley Ridge OhiopyleAuthor/Photojournalist Shannon Szwarc was a troubled teen at the Ohiopyle Camp in 1989. His book, “Wilderness Within, Wilderness Without” captures his memorable journey back to the camp 13 years later.

MORGANTOWN – Pressley Ridge is hosting a reception and photography exhibit of Shannon Szwarc’s work from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 11 at the Monongahela Arts Center, located at 107 High Street, Morgantown.

When he was 15 years old, Shannon Szwarc was on a path to self-destruction. The white teenager from a comfortable middle-class family was abusing drugs and alcohol, engaging in criminal behavior, carrying weapons and undergoing psychiatric treatment.

Szwarc’s troubling behavior ended when a juvenile court sent him to Pressley Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness Camp in Ohiopyle, Pa., for 10 life-changing months in 1989. The rugged 1,500-acre therapeutic camp for boys is operated by Pressley Ridge, a leading provider of treatment services for troubled children. Boys at the secluded residential camp live in cabins and tents and experience a regimen of daily chores, education, outdoor activities and therapeutic programs. After graduating from the camp in 1989, Szwarc completed high school and then served in the U.S. Navy for four years, before attending Kent State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism in 2002.

It was in 2002 that Szwarc, now a photojournalist, returned to the Pressley Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness Camp for an 8-month sojourn to document life at the camp through his camera lens and through candid interviews with the boys and counselors. His project has culminated with the publication of his first book, “Wilderness Within, Wilderness Without, A Personal Journey Through Pressley Ridge Wilderness Camp at Ohiopyle.”

The 100-page book, which Pressley Ridge is publishing this month, is notable for Szwarc’s stark black-and-white photography and revealing interviews that share heartbreaking and inspirational stories about the boys who seek help at the camp, and the counselors who guide them through their journey.

“Pressley Ridge turned my life around,” says Szwarc, 30. “As a teenager at Ohiopyle, I learned to believe in myself and my talents, and I found the strength and courage to focus on achieving something positive with my life. As an adult who returned 13 years later, I found boys who were struggling with similar personal journeys.”

Szwarc was born in Akron, Ohio and now resides in Philippi, West Virginia. Currently Szwarc is a teacher/counselor at Pressley Ridge Laurel Park working with children who were very similar to him many years ago.

Susanne Cole, West Virginia executive director and vice president of residential and educational services, says the book and Shannon’s success illustrate what sets the Wilderness Camp at Ohiopyle apart from more traditional programs.

“The Pressley Ridge Wilderness Camp is a special place where boys with troubling behavior can become excited about their lives again, in a safe but rugged environment where they find firm guidance and an abundance of new opportunities,” says Cole. “This book captures the essence of the camp’s mission. In taking us to Ohiopyle, Shannon shares a personal journey that is inspiring and unforgettable.”

Photo/Interview Opportunity

  • Author, photographer and Teacher/Counselor, Shannon Szwarc
  • Emotionally moving b/w photography of troubled boys
  • Therapeutic Drumming by Pressley Ridge Boys of Ohiopyle at reception and photography exhibit
  • Susanne Cole, West Virginia Executive Director and Vice President of Residential and Educational Services

Media Contact
To schedule interviews with Shannon Szwarc or Susanne Cole, please contact Jim Schuyler at (412) 872-9413.

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