By Clay Chalupa, Community Counseling Coordinator
“Dad, I went to the meeting at the place. Ms. Clay drove us so mom and me didn’t have to take buses. We all talked to M, the intake worker, and then I got to meet with her alone. Dad, I wish I could start today—but it will take some time for paperwork and they will give me an assessment next week to see which program is best for me. They only have a few openings left—but Ms. Clay told them that I was the best candidate she could imagine. I have never seen such a beautiful place. My friends told me NOT to go—but I want to tell them that I am not being MADE to go—this place wants ME to decide for myself and call them tomorrow. But Dad, I already know—I’ve never wanted anything more than this. I don’t have to think about it. I can do this. They talked to me and made me feel so special. (He started to cry.) I’m sorry–but I’ve never felt like this. I have a real chance to learn and become something. Yes—we can afford it. They only take half of the money that mom gets for me-$30 a month. You won’t have to worry. They even give me a bus pass to go to a school that they pick out for me.”
———This was a phone call that the 13 yr. old made to his dad who doesn’t live with him—-but he wanted to call him and let him know that this was NOT juvenile detention and that he doesn’t have to go back to his school (he is in 8th grade and Organization X will place him one of the private schools that they partner with and help him get into a good high school for next year (he is academically ABOVE his peers). He will most likely live there for 12-18 months and he will be able to go home on weekends after 30 days. He will go to school and have to attend group and individual counseling—but they have a lot of other activities. He said it will be so nice to live in one of their “beautiful dorm rooms with just one other kid—and he will be like me!” He told me that he wakes up to screaming and chaos every day and he afraid to go to school. He has to get his five younger siblings ready for school. He said he cannot walk over to the local community center in his current neighborhood because there are in his words “too many gangbangers that will mess him up” if he goes west of his school.