stories from our founder, joe holmes
"Throughout my career, I have been blessed to work with a number of students spanning all ages with a wide variety of needs. Many of the students I work with have either been educationally classified with an Emotionally Disability and/or Behavioral Disorders. I have selected some of the stories that I am most proud in which I have been able to provide support and hopefully have made a life long impact for the better."
Devon was entering his senior year in high school, who I developed a trusting bond with in a short period of time. After being in school for nearly three weeks of the new school year, the young man found out that his girlfriend was pregnant with their child. He was devastated and didn’t know what to do.
He initially wanted to drop out of school because he was 19 years old and already feeling the pressure of not being able to support his child. I advised Devon to speak with his therapist, but he refused to do so because he only felt comfortable talking with me about his situation. We had several conversations about his plans and the consequences if he were to decide to drop out of school.
The first thought that came to his mind was to begin selling drugs, because he felt that it was his only option to make the fast money he wanted. I immediately told him that I didn’t think that was a wise choice. I had an idea for Devon to do a writing assignment to identify the pros and cons of that lifestyle. After developing the list, we discussed that money was the only listed pro but the list had over ten cons. One of the cons that really struck a nerve with him was the risk of getting caught by the police with drugs and going to jail. The young man thought about the possibility of not being able to raise his child. This led to further conversation about better choices that would allow him to be successful and take care of his son. I continued to encourage Devon to talk with his therapist, transition specialist, and job coach to get the extra support he needed.
Finally, the young man trusted my advice and accepted the extra help he needed from other staff members to achieve. I, along with these additional staff members continued to encourage and serve the needs of the young man throughout the school year. Devon eventually met all of his requirements and graduated from high school. He was able to get a job working full time with a construction company to support himself and his family. Devon still calls to check on me and my family to this day. He regularly expresses how much he appreciated the time I invested in him, not allowing him to quit, and encouraging him to trust others that were able to get him the supports he needed.
James was a young man that I had the privilege of knowing and working with. James unfortunately had very low self-esteem. He was struggling with not wanting to go to school and face his peers because he was always teased about being over weight and having hygiene issues.
James was intelligent and a good artist and wanted to be accepted by his peers. At times, James would show uncharacteristic behaviors toward staff just to get kicked out of class to escape from being teased by his peers. I started working with James daily out in the community away from the in-school setting and saw that he was making immediate progress.
I worked with the young man on his academics, health by walking 3 miles a day with him, and encouraged the young man to focus on improving his personal hygiene issue. We continued this routine for 5 months. It was then nearing time for graduation and an opportunity for the young man to face his peers. James was excited about graduation and walked in feeling good. His peers didn’t recognize him because he had lost 50 pounds, was full of confidence and smelling good.
James was asked to speak at graduation and he shared how he was afraid to face his peers and would do anything to escape from the verbal abuse. He then went on to say, “Thanks Mr. Holmes for investing your time in me, coaching me along the way, and telling me to turn that negativity into something positive. I thought about how my peers called me fat while we were out walking and it encouraged me to keep pushing more and more. Now I’m able to jog 3 miles and I look good doing it, I smell good, and I’m on my way to Art School on a scholarship. Thanks again Mr. Holmes I appreciate you.”
Marcus was my most challenging student that I had ever served professionally. This young man was 20 years old and he only needed to pass two classes and a project to complete his requirements to receive his high school diploma. Unfortunately, I did not know which personality of the young man would show up each day.
Some days he would speak to me and we would get along just fine, but the other days it appeared I was considered the enemy. I knew that year was going to be challenging for the both of us.
I made the commitment to set the tone and stay consistent regardless of the young man’s behavior. I made myself available daily to serve Marcus. I could tell I was starting to make some progress in building a positive bond with him.
At times I had to be really creative by trying different ways to engage Marcus to help him meet the requirements to graduate. Through these efforts, Marcus started to trust me and began to share with me his reasons for his defiant behavior.
Marcus told me that his father had more than 10 additional children and he felt that he never made time for him. Marcus started to resent his father and that was the reason he treated every male figure that came in his life with disrespect. Marcus continued to progress behaviorally, and he eventually met the requirements to graduate with his high school diploma.
After the graduation ceremony, Marcus told me he was sorry for cursing at me daily and being so disrespectful towards. He expressed how grateful he was that I did not give up on him, encouraged him to succeed, and motivated him to treat people with respect moving forward. While I could not fix his relationship with his father directly, I knew it made a life changing difference for Marcus to have a caring male role model in his life. I was glad I could be that person for him.