In a series of interviews with notable alumni about their experiences at Assumption, we recently caught up with 1981 graduate Tim Krueger, CEO at Harvest Academy.
Q. What are you doing now?
I am the CEO of Harvest Academy (a Therapeutic Community) just south of Des Moines. It is a two-year residential academy in which students learn pro-social, vocational and life skills allowing them to emerge with a healthy life. Many of our students come with a criminal background, substance use challenges and/or experienced homelessness. The Academy does not accept government funding and becomes operationally self-supportive in 24 months as the students learn to start and run our vocational schools (Harvest Academy Movers, Harvest Academy Construction, etc.)
Q: What inspired you to open Harvest Academy?
An ex-prison guard came to us when I was at Maui Jim sunglass company (Krueger was CFO) asking us to volunteer teaching behavior change classes to gang members in Peoria high Schools. I jumped at the chance. We added grade schools soon after, but realized that one hour a week was not enough to make lasting change in behavior. Although I loved Maui Jim, my passion was helping those that did not have it as easy as me. I spoke to my wife and decided to retire from Maui Jim. My first idea did not work as planned, but it led me to Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco in 2013, which has been doing this work for 50 years with 26,000 graduates and 80% living a successful life (not incarcerated, not abusing substances and employed). I promised myself I would not stop until I opened an academy in Iowa.
Q: What made you want to go into rehabilitation services?
Many people think we provide rehabilitation services, but actually we provide whole person change. We really don’t see drugs as root of the problem. It is a symptom of a deeper problem and the only way to fix it is to get off the drugs and allow them the place, the time and the feedback to change their behavior. It is long and at times painful, but when it happens it is amazing seeing the best version of themselves graduate!
Q. What is a typical day like for for you at Harvest Academy?
Early on, I spent time with our Program Director doing presentations at county jails and inmate interviews. Now my days are filled with meeting donors, leading our moving crew, expanding living quarters, participating in games (when students/staff share behavior issues), setting the vision for expansion of our facility and starting vocational schools.
Q: What do you enjoy most about therapy and rehabilitation services?
I was working at one of our sister academies in Salt Lake City when three female students graduated, and I was able to speak to one of the grandparents. She mentioned how they had lost their granddaughter at the age of 14 to drugs and gangs and were then getting her back as the sweet granddaughter they remembered. Pretty cool seeing that happen to a person and family!
Q. What are some of the things you learned at Assumption?
I was not a very good student and took the opportunity to attend Assumption for granted. If I had a different high school I may not have gone on to University of Iowa and my life would be quite different. I met the love of my life at Iowa. At Assumption it was expected that you would attend college along with everyone in your class. The friends and families we knew from Sacred Heart and Assumption continue to be part of my life today. I have so many great memories from my time at Assumption!
Q: How do you feel your time at Assumption has helped you in your career thus far?
I was surrounded by so many successful and happy people/families. Being able to grow up in such a healthy environment is more than anyone could ask. It took me a while to take advantage of all the privileges I was afforded. My family, friends, Sacred Heart and Assumption helped me build a solid foundation to build a life upon when I was ready to put in the work.
Q: What are a few of your favorite memories from your time at Assumption?
The fun at Holiday Inn South in Des Moines for the Boys State Basketball Tourney. The get-togethers (parties) every night of the week before we left for college. The friends, laughs and memories still make me smile today!
Q: Who were some of the biggest influences during your time at Assumption?
My Mom! She was an amazing mom! She always believed in me even when I did not! I did many stupid things, but she was always there with a two-week grounding and reassurance that once I was able to leave the yard, I could accomplish anything. After hearing many of our student’s stories, I thank God every day for having my parents and the Assumption community.
Q: What suggestions or advice do you have for students who may want to pursue a career in therapeutic services?
I was blown away when I came across Delancey Street Foundation and learned about Therapeutic Communities. I can tell you I have never see anything close in changing the behavior of those that have hit rock bottom. If you want be part of someone’s change, you owe it to yourself to at least look into Therapeutic Communities.
Q. What is the most important lesson you have learned along the way?
Be humble, kind and honest! As you get older you realize how much you do not know and how much you need others on your team. You never know what others have gone through in life so treat them with respect. You can never take back a lie!
Q: Do you have any last words of encouragement for the Class of 2021?
Grit. Never give up. You can accomplish anything if you never ever give up. I left Maui Jim in 2012 and we did not take our first student until 2020! I am a bit slow, but anything that is worth doing usually takes longer than you think!
Thanks, Tim. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule for the interview. Congratulations on all the great work you’re doing!