How CJR Helps — In the Words of a Former Student
The following excerpts are from a presentation by a former student of the Connecticut Junior Republic who shared her story with CJR Board members, supporters and staff members at an autumn event for special friends of the Junior Republic.
“As we go through this journey called life, we’re going to encounter chapters in our lives that are hard to look back on… Prior to joining CJR, I was confused, angry, hormonal and really struggled with trying to figure out who I was.
Addiction is an overwhelming problem in our society and many of us know people who have struggled with addiction to alcohol, prescription and non-prescription drugs. Our former student recalled the devastation of her father’s drug addiction and its impact on her parents’ marriage and the entire family.
“He sold my jewelry, cell phone, clarinet – anything and everything to make a dollar. I wanted my father’s love so badly that I didn’t tell my mom for years that I was with him at the pawn shop when he sold my belongings. Instead, I’d cover for him and tell her I lost all of those things.”
Like many children who are angry, exploited or abused, this young woman acted out in school. She was a "straight A student" who was struggling behaviorally and no one knew why.
“My behavior took an interesting turn in middle school. I was angry, aggressive, unruly and rude. I can’t even tell you how many times I was suspended for fighting in the halls, how many times I was called to the guidance counselor’s office. If a teacher said something to me I didn’t like, I made sure they knew it. Even though it was negative attention, it was still attention.”
Like many single parents in families disabled by addiction, our student’s mother struggled to support herself and her daughter, working long hours to sustain her family.
“Even though my mother was a single parent, she was present. But acting out was easier than facing all the complex emotions I was feeling.”
Fortunately someone at our student’s middle school recognized that she was acting out because she needed help. The young woman was referred to CJR’s Waterbury Program for after-school tutoring, mentoring and counseling. At CJR, she found the assistance she needed to realize that the failure of her parents’ marriage and the family’s problems – while a huge challenge – were not her fault.
“CJR played a pivotal role in helping me to understand addiction; that it’s a sickness – one that you can’t take personally. Most importantly, it’s something that WILL NOT DEFINE YOU. I learned how to be courageous: How to say ‘no’ and strip myself of this “responsibility” I felt to make my father happy – and enable his behavior. These are the kind of skill sets that CJR teaches youth: Coping techniques. Conflict resolution techniques. Anger management techniques - All skill sets that provide students with what they need to be successful, contributing members of society who are not defined by the adversity they’ve faced.”
At the appreciation event for special friends and supporters on our Litchfield Campus, our former student stated that she is forever grateful to CJR.
We are forever grateful to this young woman for so generously sharing her personal journey with those who care about helping troubled children and families, and assisting our efforts to provide programs and services for young people in communities throughout Connecticut.
Thanks to many generous friends and the compassionate care of our staff, the vulnerable girl we helped some time ago is now a successful young woman with an exciting future. She has worked hard since leaving CJR. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a minor in Psychology at the University of Connecticut in 2012, and is now a Senior Marketing Communications Associate at one of Connecticut’s major insurance companies. She plans to pursue an MBA in the near future, runs marathons, has a close relationship with her mother and is planning a wedding – her own – in the coming year.
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