From Our Executive Director

West Ridge Academy is excited to announce Gary E. Leavitt as the new Executive Director. He takes over the helm following the retirement of Ken Allen, who had led the Academy for nine years.

Gary graduated from Utah State University with a degree in Finance. He worked for Franklin Covey, Novell, Quicknowledge, BizStrata, Drive Marketing, Toolchex and Mycore prior to joining West Ridge Academy.

Gary has more than 25 years of sales, sales management, marketing, and senior management experience. He has also been a professional time management trainer. He has developed marketing programs with associations, sports personalities, sporting events and major corporations. He was also the tournament director for the Franklin Quest Championship, a Senior PGA Tour Golf event. He has been involved in the negotiation of company buyouts, business development agreements, and celebrity marketing agreements.

Gary has been married to his wife, Lisa for 30 years. The couple has two daughters, McKell, age 23 and Alexa, age 20. His hobbies include golf, basketball, rock climbing, running, and anything else that gets him outdoors. He has donated his time to coaching youth sport teams, and to youth organizations such as Junior Achievement, Utah Tippoff Club, Friends of Utah Golf and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Utah/Idaho Chapter.

"I'm eagerly looking forward to getting to know and working with the community-conscious organizations that have supported us for so many years.  Our fiftieth anniversary is a landmark moment we couldn't have reached without you," he says.

Please join us in welcoming Gary to West Ridge Academy. He invites your comments and questions.  Feel free to give him a call at 801-282-1006 or drop an email to



Dedication, Experience, Tenure, Passion

Each member of the West Ridge Academy's staff has their own story, but they all center around a tremendous sense of compassion and love for young people. A majority of our staff have been with West Ridge Academy for a majority of their career.


Paul Keene, Director of Academics

B.S. in Math with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Utah. Masters of Education from American Intercontinental University. He has taught Chemistry, Biology, Physical Science, and all levels of mathematics.

James H. McMaster, Director of Events & Promotions

LCSW Brigham Young University; Utah State Licensed Clinical Social Worker; BS in Child Development and Family Relations; ten years experience counseling youth and families.

John Stohlton, Director of Fundraising

EMPA-Public Administration & BS-Psychology; Brigham Young University; Graduate of Utah Peace Officer Standards of Training; Spanish.

Amy Whittaker, LCSW, Clinical Director

MSW – Walla Walla College, Washington; BSW – Idaho State University. Worked with troubled youth for the last ten years; Started career working as The Director of Juvenile Probation in Fremont County, Idaho. Enjoy working with families, the criminal justice system, and area schools. Ten years of extensive experience in individual and family therapy with young adults who struggle with oppositional defiant disorder, drug and alcohol abuse, school problems, and poor family relations.

Professional Staff


Jodi Groot, PhD, APRN

PhD, Nursing, Oregon Health and Sciences University. Advanced practice registered nurse who specializes in working with children, teens and their families. She has over 25 years of experience as a clinician working in in-patient and out-patient settings.  Her research interests have focused on the development of social competence in seriously emotionally disturbed youth and currently she is working on a technology based intervention for children and adolescents with ADHD.



Frank M. Rees

PhD in Clinical Psychology--Brigham Young University, BA Psychologist in Psychology--University of Utah, licensed as a Psychologist in the state of Utah, Supervising Psychologist & Clinical Director at the Utah State Prison, instructor--Utah Department of Corrections Training Academy for abnormal behavior and crisis intervention.


Eric K. Allred, LMFT

MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Phillips Graduate Institute, California. MA in Business Management from the University of Phoenix. BS Journalism from Utah State University. Past clinical director, home and weekend director, and part executive management team. Currently working as a full time therepist. Additional background in NOJOS (Network of Juvenilles Offending Sexually -- Utah), Reactive Attachment Disorder, and Family Systems. Been working for Utah Boys Ranch/West Ridge Academy for 18 years.



Jeff Murdock, LMFT

MA in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy from Phillips Graduate Institute, California. BA in Psychology from Brigham Young University, Utah. . Previously, worked with West Ridge as a live-in counselor, home parent, school teacher, campus administrator, weekends and assistant clinical director. He and his wife have had 17 foster children. Currently serving West Ridge Academy as Director of Training and a full-time Therapist. Current host of WRA Hope and Healing Podcast. Credentials include Crisis Prevention and Intervention Instructor, NOJOS (Network on Juveniles Offending Sexually). Additional background in Reactive Attachment Disorder,DBT, Addictions, Family Systems and Survivors of Abuse. With Utah Boys Ranch/ West Ridge Academy since 1987.

John M. Ogden, LCSW

Graduate of Marywood Univ. Scranton Pa. M.S.W.- B.S.W. Brigham Young Univ.Extensive experience working with youth for the past 22 years. School social worker for ten years working with youth involved in special education. Experience working with sexual abuse, eating disorders, drug and alcohol and Family issues. Extensive training in the Family Teaching Model and other behavioral strategies for youth. Home parent for young men and young women for over two years. Married 28 years, six children, two grand children.

Michael L. Ruoho, LCSW, Assistant Clinical Director - Girls Campus

MSW, LCSW, Bachelors and Masters Degrees, University of Utah. Miotivational speaker and frequently speaks nationwide and in Canada, on topics ranging from parenting skills, relationships, dealing with troubled teens and spiritual topics since 1992. Married his sweetheart Karyn in 1985 and together they have built a wonderful family. They have 4 children two girls and two boys, two black labs and one unwanted sneaky mouse! Michael welcomes you to our website and invites you to visit the Academy. Has been with West Ridge Academy since 1987.

Erin Shepherd, LCSW

Licensed in Utah as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). MSW Brigham Young University; BA in English from Lindenwood University in Missouri and certified to teach high school English and Spanish. Fluent in Spanish. Prior work experience includes programs and issues related to school-based mental health, day treatment, and adolescent inpatient treatment. Enjoys working with troubled teens and families on various related issues, including substance abuse, mood/anxiety disorders, trauma, Asperger’s disorder, and other related behavioral issues. Current director of the Drug & Alcohol program on the boys’ and girls’ campuses. Native of the Mighty Midwest but recently relocated from Southern California to join West Ridge Academy. Interests include sports, music, cooking, and family.



Shawna Henry,MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Argosy University. 

BS in Social Services from BYU as well as certification as a Mediator.  Fluent in Spanish.  Works as a full time therapist on the girls campus.  Employs a relationship-based approach to facilitate hope, healing and growth within individuals and families.  Enjoys working with troubled teens and families on various related issues, including substance abuse, mood/anxiety disorders, trauma, and other related behavioral issues. She is passionate about helping teens find what they are passionate about.  Her favorite quote that the girls all know is “Vulnerability is our greatest measure of courage.”  It takes great courage for our youth to show their true vulnerable selves and turn their lives around. 



Wendy Ballard, Admissions Specialist, Coach

Registrar on the boy's campus for six years, then performed fundraising and grant writing. Coach for the girl's volleyball teams. Currently is the communication specialist; writes the parent newsletters; blogs; assists with the parent seminars and works at the front desk. The most rewarding part of her job is developing relationships with the youth and seeing them change their lives around. She and her husband have fostered over 50 boys in their home throughout the years and have five children of their own and one granddaughter. Has worked at West Ridge Academy since 1990.

Lynn Smith, Admissions Specialist

Customer service representative quickly promoted to team supervisor, VIP representative and then Distributor Recognition coordinator for USANA Health Sciences for several years prior to coming to West Ridge Academy.Placed one of her own children in the program at West Ridge Academy and after experiencing the program firsthand as a parent, came to work for WRA. Lloves listening and talking to families in their moment of crisis and decision making knowing personally how challenging the crisis can be.


Sandra Hirschi, Teacher

BA in Elementary Education-Idaho State University Magna Cum Laude specializing in reading in math; Idaho reading endorsement for grades K-12; seven years experience as a 4H Leader; completed boy scout leadership training course; five years service as a cub scout den leader; two months Vo-Tech training at I.S.U in microchip manufacturing.

Jamie Keefer, Athletics Director

Jamie Keefer has spent his life devoted to youth sports and joined the West Ridge faculty in 2007. He has worked with the Academy’s Self Contained Classroom and After Care programs. Jamie has coached high school baseball since 1995, and his skill has brought several region championships to West Ridge. He has also coached WRA boys and girls basketball. Jamie was named West Ridge Athletic Director in 2010. He is focused on building the athletic programs and bringing community financial support to the Academy. Jamie enjoys an excellent rapport with the youth on campus, in the community and his family welcomes them into their home.

Natalie Keefer

Natalie Keefer has been working with at risk youth in the school system since 2001 and joined West Ridge Academy in 2007. She serves as the Academy’s Registrar for both boys and girls and is responsible for student scheduling and student records. Natalie is focused on getting students back on track toward high school graduation. She can also be seen on campus with shears and hair clippers in hand, as she is a licensed Cosmetologist. She and her husband, Jamie, have one son and the Keefer family welcomes “day program teens” into their home. Natalie is a tireless supporter of West Ridge athletics.


Lisa Moeller, English Teacher

Born and raised in the Salt Lake Valley, attended Jordan High School and graduated from the University of Utah. Stay at home mom for fifteen years, working in the PTA, Cub Scouts and various church callings. After her fourth and youngest son started school she started working at the Utah Boys Ranch in the Spring of 1992. Recently earned her Library and Media Science endorsement and is enjoying the role of Grandmother. One of the English teachers and manages the library for both the boy's and the girls campuses.


  Jay Honey


  Mark Gardner


 Thomas Wilson


  Julie Mclachlan






  Kristi Measels








  Aaron Duke, MSW

Currently a CSW, his education includes a MSW- University of Utah; emphasis on substance abuse and addiction;  BSW- University of Utah, and an AS- Dixie State University.  Aaron has worked with youth for the past 10 years. Aaron has had the opportunity to work in several capacities within our organization, including, being a live-in counselor, as well as a home parent.  He feels these experiences, coupled with his wealth of personal experience and education; give him valuable insight and accurate empathy for the clientele and their families, as they progress through their continuum of care.  He is currently on track to complete all licensing requirements (LCSW), early 2015.  He has been married for 10 years to his sweetheart and has five awesome children. 


  George Bruce

Stephen Porter

Steve Porter is the social studies and art teacher at West Ridge Academy.  He joined the faculty in 2009. His varied interests and abilities have resulted in being an instructor of U.S. History, World History, Bible Studies, P.E., Art, Acting, Debate, Psychology, Geography, and a language class. Steve received his education at BYU where he graduated in 2005.  Additionally, Steve has taught seminary in the LDS Church Education System.

Steve married Vashti Porter in May 2009.  The couple recently welcomed their first child to the family.  He loves to read and is improving his education through graduate studies.  He was a founding member of “Absoludicrus Improv” and still occasionally performs around the Salt Lake valley.


West Ridge Academy
5500 Bagley Park Road,
West Jordan, Utah 84081
Call 1-800-262-2697