Saturday, September 27, 2014

It's Not Simply Teenage Wasteland

Life goes on whether we are ready for what it brings or not. I have been pleasantly surprised by the turns in my career path as of late. Let me catch you up:
During the spring semester of the 2013-2014 school year I was involved in the PATH in-school counseling program at three different schools: two area high schools and one middle school. Due to changes outside of my control, I am now spending Mondays and Thursdays at one local high school and another agency is providing services at the other high school and the middle school. No matter how often it happens, it's always a bit heartbreaking for me to say goodbye to clients and entrust their care to someone else. My ability to connect with kids on a truly empathic, non-judgemental level is something I pride myself on. Trust me, I'm the most surprised out of anyone on the planet that I apparently have the skills and ability to create these relationships. Since I was 12 years old I knew that I didn't want to have children of my own and when I started grad school, the population that I thought I'd have the most difficulty working with (because they scared the pants off of me) was children and adolescents. But here I am, spending four days of my work week working with children and adolescents.
My Mondays and Thursdays are spent at a local high school and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays I am at a boys' ranch outside of New London - I'm hoping you can catch on to what I'm referring to without having to spell it out because I don't feel comfortable revealing that information in a blatant way. Let's just say that Bart & Cherrie Starr are very involved in this organization. You're with me now, right?
I work with the boys who are residents on the ranch, some of which are placed there by the DJC (Department of Juvenile Corrections), their county social workers and others are "private placements" which means they are there because their parent(s) have decided this is the place that can provide them with the educational and behavioral changes they need to lead successful lives.
I love these boys the same way I love my high school kids - and I do refer to them all as "my kids". I want to do whatever it takes to teach them how to make healthy, effective decisions. I want to be someone they can trust to be there for them. I want them to know that I'm not going to desert them when they get into trouble or make a mistake. I want them to know that my concern and compassion is not conditional on what they do in school, with their friends, or have done before I met them. I have never met a teen-ager who shirks unconditional compassion for them; too often they receive that message at home or at school and that's not what my role in their lives is meant to be. I am here for them no matter what, through thick and thin, no matter what the over-used analogy might be. I am here for them.
I relish in every achievement "my kids" make, whether that is a higher ACT score than their last one, taking a healthy risk and trying something new at school, completing homework on time, getting into college, not losing points for poor behavior at the ranch, getting a rank promotion, or trusting in a horse to help them work through trust issues.
These are my kids and I wouldn't trade being a part of their lives for the world.