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voices of youth

A lasting change 

Patrick Norman

I was originally sent to a residential treatment facility because of my attitude. I was running away from home and doing poorly in school. My grades were dropping, and I was having disciplinary problems in school. In my first residential treatment facility, I did not do much better. I was not following the rules and was failing the program. I was released and did well for about a month. Then I started slipping up again. I ran away from home again, but this time I got into some serious trouble. It was enough to land me two years probation and almost $3,000 in restitution. I was sent to another residential treatment facility and did worse in this one than the previous. I would get into fights and other trouble. After seven months of messing up in the program, my probation officer decided to pull me from it and put me in another program that she thought would be better for me. That program was Perseus House.

I went into Perseus House knowing I was on my third strike. If I messed up in this program like I had the last two, I would be going to a facility that would hold me until I was 18. At Perseus House, I realized this was my last chance. If I was ever going to make a lasting change in my life and straighten up, it had to be now. I was confronted with two options. I could either make a full 100% commitment to change, or I could take the easy way and continue on the path that I was on. The path I was on was not working, so I decided that I needed to change.

After making the decision came the hard part doing it. I had no idea how to get started. I also knew it was not something I could do alone. This is where Perseus House came in. Perseus House took me step-by-step, from beginning to end, on what I needed to do and how to go about doing it. I had my specialized individual treatment plan, as does every client there. It dealt with the problems I needed to work on most. I participated in both individual and group counseling on a daily basis.
I had a particularly difficult time with my anger. I was easily agitated and slow to forgive. With help, I learned what caused this anger and how to release it in positive ways. I learned about anger control, anger reducers, triggers, cues, and "if" and "then" statements.

Perseus House was excellent in teaching about feelings. I have learned to express my feelings appropriately, and I have learned to respect other people's feelings as well. How I feel about a situation might be different than someone else, and that's okay. Everyone is unique, and these differences make the world interesting.

Perseus House has many group counseling programs that helped me while I was there and continue to help me. Skill streaming, a group that breaks down how to perform certain skills into step-by-step instructions, dealt with a major problem of mine-thinking before acting. I continue to have problems in this area at times, but I am far better than I was before and will continue to get better as I get older.

Moral Reasoning is another group that has helped. In Moral Reasoning, we not only learn what is right and wrong but why it is so. We discuss how the victim might feel, as well as possible long- and short-term consequences for our actions. I learned to put myself in other people's shoes. How would I feel if someone did to me what I've done to another person? It has helped open my eyes.

I feel that the reason I was so successful at Perseus House was because I wanted to change. A program can only help someone as much as the person is willing to let it. I wanted to change, was willing to do what it took to change, and set out on the path of recovery, with Perseus House guiding me each step.

Another benefit of being at Perseus House was the behavior management system. This allowed a person, as they progressed and excelled, to earn privileges. It may start small with going to the movies with staff on Friday night, but as you earn the trust of the staff, they permit you to go off grounds without staff. It took me some time to get to that stage, but once you earn that trust, you do not want to lose it and you do not want to let the staff down.

Perseus House, without a doubt, is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Perseus House gave me the counseling, the desire, and the skills needed to change. It is scary to think where I would be right now without Perseus House, and I appreciate all it has done for me. Perseus House has helped me turn my life around.

I plan to finish high school and go to college. I think I might do something in the areas of social work or criminal justice. I knew someone from Perseus House who had majored in criminal justice, and I liked what he had to say about the field.

I cannot thank Perseus House enough. My entire way of thinking is different. I feel that you should make the most out of your life; that is what I was able to achieve through Perseus House.

You are Free to Share Your Dream: What Dreams Mean to Me
Patrick Norman

When you shape your dreams, a picture will be formed; a picture that is yours and yours alone. Made up of colors, which only you and the selected few whom you wish to share them with can see.

Dreams are delicate things. Slow to build but quick to shatter, if not carefully guarded and well preserved. One dream can have an effect of such magnitude on so many people that it could literally change the world we live in. The problem that most people have when shaping their dreams is that they do not know how to put their dreams into effect. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a good example of a dream with a widespread effect. He had a dream. From that dream he made goals. And from the goals he made a reality.

I believe that a dream consists of present and past experiences that you have learned from, and taking what you have learned, you paint a picture of a future that you desire. A dream is also original in a way that it just can't happen. A dream is something that has to be strived for.

In my opinion, the best part about dreams is that they are free. Anyone, rich or poor, can have a dream. Making a dream for yourself is just making a goal that is yet to be achieved, but to achieve it you have to give time, work, and faith.

I have a dream. My dream might not seem big to a lot of people but to me it is a mountain bigger than Everest.

My dream is to learn the different skills I need to learn to make it in society. To do what I need to do in the program I'm in and learn all that I can along the way. I want to go to college. I want to do something that has to do with helping people. But, I need to take it one step at a time.

My dream, without a question, is within my reach. I know this because I know my own potential, and I have all the resources I need to make it become a reality. I know that along the way I am going to find walls that block my path. But as long as I have people who care and are willing to help me, as long as I stay willing to help myself, I believe that there isn't anything in this world I cannot accomplish.

This feature: Norman, P. A lasting change, Reclaiming children and youth, 12 (3).