The following are letters, papers and thoughts from Arrowhead students
I thank Arrowhead for everything they helped me through. All the teachers who helped me learn new things and helped me understand work I didn’t know. For all the staff who was there for me when I went through struggles. I’m the Ladaria I always wished to be. The Ladaria who’s smart, a good citizen, and friendly. I love everybody around me. Arrowhead has taught and helped me a lot. I can say I changed because I wanted to not because I had to. I changed for the better; I changed because I didn’t want that old life anymore. I’m free. Thank you to all of the staff who helped me throughout my stay at Arrowhead.
In 2009 I was expelled from my previous school for various reasons such as fighting, disrespecting authority and bringing weapons to school. At that point in my life I could have cared less about my future. It was all about living in the moment for me. So, when I was enrolled in the Arrowhead Safe School Program I didn’t take it seriously. I remember my teacher, Mr. Knob, always trying to talk some sense into me. He was a great person who cared about my well being. He did this not because he had to, but because he wanted to see us become successful young adults. My classmates and I never listened to what he had to say. We laughed when he said, “You guys are going to end up living here”. Little did we know was that the center of our jokes would become our reality.
After I graduated the Arrowhead Safe School Program I was sent to Coolidge Alternative School. I was told that if I completed a quarter with all passing grades and no problems that I would be able to attend Moline High School. On that note I buckled down and stayed out of conflict. When I passed, I asked the principal if I would be starting the next quarter off in Moline High School. His response was discouraging, “finish the rest of the year off here”. I felt as if I had been swindled and cheated. After hearing the principal’s decision I was full of self-pity and mad at the world. I took it out on society by committing the following crimes; residential burglary, theft, and assault, I was also a run away for a total of a whole year. In this time period I joined a gang with two other people that had attended Arrowhead Safe School Program. I didn’t care about my future. It continued to spiral downhill until I was saved by something I would never viewed as help in the past, the Judicial System.
When I was arrested, I was sent to the Mary Davis Home for about 35 days. In that time period, a woman named Ms. Reyes came to interview me to see if I would be eligible to be placed in the Arrowhead Program. At that moment I remembered when I had said that I would never be placed at Arrowhead. My friends and I laughed and made fun of the residents that lived there at the time. I never thought of how much hurt I had caused and how much I had hurt myself with my with my actions.
From the day I stepped foot in Arrowhead, I was determined to find and fix all of my flaws. Something that really helped me was that all of my staff (Mr. Collins, Mr. Banks, Mr. Cunningham, Ms. Bowling, Mr. Muskeyvalley and Mr. Sottos) are really supportive and are willing to supply any help that I need, no matter what the situation might be. They’re always eager to help. During my stay here at Arrowhead I have met many challenges, but there hasn’t been one that I haven’t been able to work through. I only kept improving on my problem solving skills by dealing with adversity, which has also aided me in helping others. By sharing knowledge I have gained through my own experiences, I became a leader in 4 months. My amazing therapist Mr. Muskeyvalley has helped me come up with an education plan that will allow me to attend college by this fall.
I still remember the day I walked into Arrowhead, the same two classmates that I joined a gang with were staring at me from across the room. Then and there something told me that I must get my life together because if I didn’t, it would have been prison or death, but there was still hope for me. I am currently transitioning back into society and I feel confident that I have all of the tools that I need to be successful. All I have to do is use them and everything else will fall into place. I’m young and I have what it takes to push through life’s challenges without pushing myself aside at the same time. All of this is possible because of Arrowhead, and for that I will be forever thankful.
“You started thinking that what you were doing was easy, but you were also forgetting what it cost.” This quote had my heart beating as fast the speed of light, and my eyes as big as a silver dollar. I was lying on a cement slab, where I had to sleep, when my eyes first came across this quote. It became even more real to me at that moment where my life was headed and why I was where I was. Jail: a place for the confinement of people accused or convicted of a crime; and at sixteen years of age, that’s exactly where I sat for 34 long days. I don’t think I had ever felt so alone as I did during my confinement, but I can’t help to think that it changed my life forever.
Criminal damage to government property, battery, two counts of harassment of a witness, and disorderly conduct: These are my charges, my mistakes, and part of my journey through life. Judicially speaking, these charges are how I ended up at Arrowhead. My personal thoughts and opinions of how I ended up at Arrowhead concur with the theory that what I think is how I act. I feel that I tried to wear shoes that were a smidge too big. I played my actions off of the excuse, “I’m just a kid” far too long. Thinking I could get away with things mixed with my sense of humor is a recipe for disaster. Also, mourning and overcoming the loss of my mother, which was a month prior to my confinement, was a humongous challenge. The constant struggle with addiction has devoured my mother for years. It felt like a knife was pitched in the center of my heart when the judge made his decision. “Four years in the Illinois Department of Corrections”, were the piercing words that still seem so vivid in my mind. I adored and cherished the relationship my mother and I shared, and in a split second, it had been stolen. With all of these different aspects, came one large concoction of trouble, which quickly caught up with me.
Despite the agony that came from the situation involving my mother, and the excuses I made for myself, laid a light that twinkled as bright and as luminous as the night’s star. The light symbolized my future and how it was in the palm of my hands. Realizing the act of free will and choice really gave me a better perspective. I was finally able to see that everything in my life boils down to the choices I make and the attitude that I possess. However, that knowledge did not just magically appear in my mind. I learned it during my journey at Arrowhead. It was quite overwhelming to endure all of the love and wisdom from the people at Arrowhead, but it helped me be a better person. So, the negative choices and circumstances turned into an exceptionally positive experience at Arrowhead.
Throughout my stay at Arrowhead I often wondered when the transformation of myself would become apparent. Every day, every week, every month I would search for the difference in myself. I never truly saw a change in myself until I wore myself out looking for one. When my focus became solely on myself, and not about my time at Arrowhead, I noticed the changes that had taken place inside myself. I believed that I would always be the Claire I was when I was first born, but my attitude and my values would be rewired to accompany me in a better life.
In the end, it is neither the circumstances nor the material items that controlled the direction of my life. The attitude I chose to possess and the choices I made judged the course of my life. I experienced the reality of my devious attitude and my negative choices. On the bright side, I have also experienced the beauty and hardships of change deep within. Arrowhead has impacted my life forever, and my heart holds an immense amount of thanks and love to the people who were part of that.
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