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The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping: A Netflix Documentary Review

Kendall Posey
The television shows Katherine Kubler and her former classmates reuniting at Ivy Ridge.

Are you running out of shows to watch? Looking for a documentary that you won’t be able to stop watching? The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping is a thrilling new documentary that was brought to Netflix on March 5, 2024. It is about the Ivy Ridge Academy which was a boarding school for disobedient children and teens but hid horrifying secrets deep within the school.

The documentary’s story of the camp is mainly told by survivor Katherine Kubler, who spent 15 months in the Ivy Ridge program after being sent to the camp when she was 16. “It was really well produced. I liked that the kids came back to Ivy Ridge and that Katherine produced it,” said Maddie Posey, a sophomore at Pennridge High School. Kubler was raised by a conservative family and lost her mom to cancer when she was only two years old. Her father and stepmom signed her up for the camp, and she was taken there by two armed guards. Before releasing the documentary,, they spent about a decade investigating the abuse and corruption of Ivy Ridge. Kubler has had lifelong trauma due to what she endured while at Ivy Ridge.

Ivy Ridge had a way to graduate the school although it was difficult to do so. By using a point system, you were able to “level up” until you were able to graduate from the school by reaching level 6. Students were not allowed to talk or look out windows and were forced to pivot around corners the way the military does. Students were both physically and mentally abused as well while staying there, and this abuse gave the students life-long trauma long after they left. The staff of the school was extremely underqualified, and they held seminars that used brainwashing techniques on the students. If you were lucky enough to graduate, you were given a diploma that was not recognized by the state of New York, so you were not able to go to college or other higher education because students did not receive a recognized high school diploma.

The documentary takes students who went to the school and has them go back to Ivy Ridge and go through their old files and look at letters they wrote while they were there. Going back to Ivy Ridge adds an intriguing factor to the documentary, and viewers enjoy seeing the students go back. Pennridge senior Hannah Capo agreed, “I liked how the people were going through and reflecting on their own files, and they found letters they wrote when they were in The Program.” Capo added, “I felt really bad for them, and I couldn’t believe it was real. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that the parents let them go.”

This documentary doesn’t have a single dull moment throughout the three-hour-long episodes that make up the story of Ivy Ridge Academy. Viewer discretion is advised when watching this documentary because it shows surveillance footage from the school that people may find disturbing. It is rated on Rotten Tomatoes 100%, which means that there are no bad reviews written about this film, and Netflix has it rated that 93% of viewers enjoyed watching it. This documentary makes for a must-watch, and you will regret not learning about the deep corruption and unbelievable stories that make up Ivy Ridge Academy.

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About the Contributors
Tyler Vandermark, Student Writer
Tyler VanDerMark, Grade 12. Interests/hobbies include flying planes, traveling, lacrosse, and watching NASCAR. Tyler will be attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to study Aeronautical Science and pursue a career in commercial aviation.
Kendall Posey, Student Writer
Kendall Posey, Grade 12. Interests/hobbies include lacrosse, reading, traveling, and cooking. She is the captain of the lacrosse and cross-country teams and is involved in NHS, Key Club, and Executive Council treasurer/president. Kendall plans on attending a four-year college, hopefully in Boston, to study mathematics or statistics.

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