Who we are


Teen Challenge Puerto Rico

We are part of an international Christian organization that offers a residential program of rehabilitation for people who have lost control of their lives.

The centers of Teen Challenge are designed to help individuals (youth and adults, men as well as women), to live free from the use of drugs and to reintegrate in society.  The focus of the Program is interdisciplinary and offers a balance between biblical classes, work, and recreation.

We believe in the total recuperation of the individual through the intervention of God.  At this moment, Teen Challenge runs 1100 centers in 90 countries around the planet.  The organization has been working in Puerto Rico for over 50 years.  As of today, we have three centers in Puerto Rico under the direction of the Board of Directors.  Since 2007, Dr. Rodney Hart has served as President.  The Reverend Miguel Canán is Executive Director and Ivelisse Rodríguez serves as Director of Human Resources.


Our Teen Challenge Statement of Purpose is the following: “To offer to youth, adults, and families who suffer from problems brought about by drug dependencies, a solution based in the Christian faith, and to integrate in daily life these Christian values, to help them exercise control of the problems of drugs and alcohol.  The purpose is to convert them into productive members of society.  Through the application of these biblical principles and Christian values, the efforts of Teen Challenge are directed to helping these persons heal mentally, reach emotional equilibrium, become socially adapted, physically restored, and spiritually alive.”


Teen Challenge began to work in Puerto Rico over 50 years ago and has passed through various stages.  At this time, we have three men’s centers under the direction of the Board of Directors.  Since 2007, this board has been presided over by Dr. Rodney Hart, by the Reverend Miguel Canán, Executive Director, and by Ivelisse Rodríguez, Director of Human Resources.  These two pastors, together with a team of collaborators, accepted the challenge of leading a large process of reorganization.  This has born good fruit and has allowed the doors of Teen Challenge of Puerto Rico to remain open, to care for the thousands of lives that come to us in need and are transformed by God.

The centers of Teen Challenge of Puerto Rico are located in Bayamón, Buena Vista (Bayamón), and Arecibo.  The program that has been built in these centers is designed to help those individuals live free from the use of drugs through an interdisciplinary focus that offers a balance between biblical classes, work, and recreation.

Our central offices can be found in Bayamón (Carretera 2, Km 7.7), where we also have our Admissions Office.  Interested students who want to join the program may visit us there or call us toll-free at 1(-855) 885 8336 to set up an interview.

Our origins

Nicky-Cruz-y-David-WilkersonTeen Challenge began in Brooklyn, New York, in 1958.  It all started when David Wilkserson began reaching out to teen gang members.  This young preacher, who at the time was a pastor in the east of Pennsylvania, read in Time Magazine an article about seven adolescents who were in trouble with the law for a murder in New York.  This burdened his heart.  He decided to move to the Big Apple to work full-time in the suburban zones where the young people who were involved in drugs formed gangs that had violent turf wars.  It was at this time that the famous Nicky Cruz, a young Puerto Rican who ran the most violent New York street gang known as “Mau Mau,” was one of Wilkerson’s first converts to Christ. Wilkerson’s initiative came to be known as “Teen Challenge.”

Soon Teen Challenge had access to a large house on Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn and began to offer help to those youth who were trapped in the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol, if they were ready to change their lives.  And there was born the residential program that at the beginning lasted one year.  (Today it has been extended to 18 months.)  This program continues transforming lives in centers around the United States and in another 90 countries around the world.

The beginning of Teen Challenge is recounted in the book The Cross and the Switchblade, written by David Wilkerson in 1964.  It has been translated into 30 languages.  In 1979 it was adapted into a major motion picture of the same name, with Pat Boone in the role of Pastor Wilkerson and Erik Estrada as Nicky Cruz.


The program of Teen Challenge has a biopsychosocial focus.  It is spiritual in its intervention with an integral character that is integrating for the person who accomplishes it.  The participant is given a proposal of help that is basically consistent with the goal of learning to live in an autonomous way without any type of dependency.  This is to say, that a person who begins the program of Teen Challenge initiates a therapeutic and educational process whose objective is to recuperate their own capacity to make good decisions, to be healthy and functional, to to return to being an active member of society.  This methodology integrates Christian values and key elements of systemic psychology, cognitive-conductive and logotherapy, among others.  At the same time, we infuse a philosophy of personalized community, of voluntary values and principles, and in self-help as a way to facilitate lasting life change.  In a word, our goal is to help the purpose rehabilitate and reintegrate fully into society in every respect.  The key to the process is the development of Christian values and, in parallel, to identify the existential process that “kept” the person in the lie that consumption of substances was their only option.

In this way, at length we can work with the participant from a standpoint that is therapeutic and educational.

Program Structure

In a schematic way, the 18-month program includes 3 phases or moments.  One fundamental moment that is found in each one of the phases is the spiritual development and the gaining of Christian values.

First phase: Reception and personal motivation. Duration: 2 months.

During the first two weeks of this phase, the student will commence a process of evaluations (medical, psychological, social) of induction in the requirements of the program and the expectations of coexistence and content, in an atmosphere of discipline and Christian love.  They also receive orientation about the facilities, the therapeutic personal, and their fellow students.

In this stage, the student is given tools to help them grow their determination and motivation to change for the better.  That is, they receive help in finding their motivation to end their conduct of consumption of controlled substances.  One of these ways of augmenting their motivation is to help them see the gap between their future goals and their present behavior.


Second Phase: Personal understanding. Duration: 9 months.

In this stage, the treatment is centered in the following:

  • Helping the student commit to the treatment and reinforcing the importance of maintaining the recuperation
  • Offering the expertise and counsel of the multidisciplinarian team
  • Support the “small steps” with a realistic vision of progress
  • Recognize the difficulties that the student has in each step of initiating change
  • Help the student identify high risk situations and the strategies to overcome them
  • Help the student to find new ways of reinforcing their positive change
  • Help the student to evaluate when they have strong familiar and social support
  • Offer the student opportunities of spiritual and educational growth (tutoring is offered to reach school grades) labor therapy, and Christian values


Third phase: Socio-laboral integration. Duration: 7 months.

In this phase, the emphasis is the following:

  • Helping the student to identify and examine sources of pleasure that are free of drugs (for example, gaining new skills)
  • Supporting changes in lifestyle of the student to promote family union and healing
  • Affirming the resolution of the student and their self suffiency
  • Helping the student to practice and use new strategies to avoid relapsing into consumption of controlled substances
  • Develop an “escape plan” if the student should fall back into the consumption of controlled substances
  • Review with the student the long-term goals
  • Prepare the student and their family for the reintegration
  • Prepare the student for their entrance or re-entrance  into their studies and/or career

During the last two phases the team works on family integration and overall development of the student.  To all of this is added the implementation of an entire series of complementary services (such as psychological, recreational, social, health, and other services).  These give

Durante las dos últimas fases se trabaja en la integración familiar y el desarrollo integral del estudiante. A todo esto hay que sumarle la implementación de una serie de servicios complementarios (servicios psicológicos, recreativos, sociales, de salud, etc.).  These give form at the same time to the treatment as well as to the person’s development, adding nuance to the intervention.  Our conviction is that the use of drugs is an episode of life, which can be overcome and left behind.  We have seen how spiritual development, Christian values, coupled with the capacity and strength of the human being, makes it possible for people truly to change and learn to live without any type of dependency.

Services and Activities

In our centers we offer our students basic services including housing, food, medical attention, and recreation.  At the same time, we provide other services such as case management and counseling designed by a team of professionals in human conduct.

During the development of the program the students receive biblical teaching and vocational training, so that at the end of the program they can become useful citizens and improve the quality of their own lives and that of their families.  We also offer the possibility of tutoring in basic skills to that they can take the equivalent of high school exams (GED), in case they do not have it.