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Senior Project: To Learn More About Themselves, Twin Brothers Brave Desert

Matthew LaPlante
The American Academy
801-931-2707 ext 2062


Salt Lake City, Utah — November 21, 2011 — Travin and Kaden Silvers will graduate from high school in the next few weeks having completed a rather unusual senior project.

The twin brothers spent two months in Texas’ Chihuahuan Desert, where they hunted for lizards and jackrabbits, dug for water and braved scalding temperatures — all with the goal of understanding what it’s like to be stripped of almost all modern comforts.

The Silver brothers have always lived an unconventional lifestyle. Their father is a traveling consultant, and moved his family several times during their high school years.

“Every time we’d move, we’d lose some of the credit that we had earned and it just became a problem over time,” Kaden said.

Having moved around so much after spending most of their lives in the Sooner State, the brothers didn’t feel particularly attached to their teachers or classmates as they bounded around with their father. After a stint in Washington’s Cle Elum-Rolsyn School District, they were ready for a change.

“We went to the counselor and asked, ‘is there anything we can do?’” Kaden said.

As luck would have it, the district had partnered with the NoDropouts program of The American Academy. The program is a cooperative agreement between the Salt Lake City-based online high school and 40 other districts across the country that wish to provide more paths to graduation for their students, particularly those for whom a traditional brick-and-mortar education is not a viable option. “A lot of our students are teen parents, some are working to support a family, and some are like the Silvers — they just needed a different path,” said Rebekah Richards, The American Academy’s co-founder and chief academic officer. “We’re fortunate to have found many forward-thinking school leaders who recognize that some students just need to take another route to graduation.”

And some take a very different route: After getting their father’s permission for the quest, the then-17-year-old brothers identified a little-used mobile home park in Texas where they could access an electrical outlet to run their computers and, with a short walk, get to an internet connection and complete their school work.

That was pretty much the extent of modern conveniences.

After a while, a local motel owner learned that the boys were alone and living off the land and offered them some food. After contemplating the deal, the twins decided that they would accept the offer — but only if they could work for it.

“So that’s how we did it,” Travin said. “We started with nothing and worked our way up from there.”

The American Academy, like its public school partners, is a completely secular program, but Kaden said the experience gave him “a chance to really feel closer to God,” Kaden said. “Out there, you can really hear him speak to you.”

“When you get away from the distractions, you can have that kind of experience,” Travin said. “We couldn’t have done that in a regular school.”

The boys recently completed a report on their experiences. After graduation, they plan to join the military.

For more information about The American Academy, visit For media inquiries, contact Matthew LaPlante at 801-931-2707 ext 2062 or