Pulling Things Together To Reach His Dream

Steven just didn’t like school. Ever. “I didn’t see the point,” he said. “And it was boring.”

Now in grade 11, Steven has been a student at Applewood Academy for about two-and-a-half years. Applewood is a private school that combines therapeutic support with high-quality education for youth who have emotional and behavioral problems.

When he started attending classes at Applewood, Steven reacted the same way he had at public school: Skipping classes and not doing any work.

Now in grade 11, however, the 17-year-old has found his motivation: Cars. “I want to work on cars, from basic to custom work,” Steven said. “If I want to reach my dream and go to college, I have to come to school.”

This year has been a turning point

Recently, Steven has been in a co-op job, helping a local contractor frame houses. “I’m learning how they’re built, how fast-paced it is,” he said. “There are three breaks, and the rest of the day you’re on your feet!”

He’s been working at this co-op for two months, and will hold the same position next year. In contrast, the co-op position he had during the last school year was cut short.

About a year ago, Steven decided that using marijuana was impacting his life. “I was an addict,” he admitted. “I was kicked out of high school because I was an addict. I wasn’t able to maintain my co-op last year because I was always high.

“I’ve been staying clean this year, I’m on a program. And everything’s been going better ever since.”

Living well means more than conquering addiction

In addition to ditching the marijuana, Steven has also been committed to making changes in other areas of his life.

Greg Reilly, lead staff for the high school program, says that during this school year alone, Steven’s worked through more than 250 math lessons, which is equivalent to about four grade levels.

“We follow a self-directed program that helps kids bring their knowledge up to grade level,” Reilly explained, noting that Steven has also worked through 60 lessons of English. “Kids who aren’t at grade level feel a lot of frustration; this program helps avoid all of that.”

Outside of class, Steven strives to live a healthy and active lifestyle. “I go outside a lot, there’s a really nice area near my house,” he said. “I used to play on my PS3 all the time, but now I think there are a lot of nice things to do outside. This year, I like fishing.”

Living an active lifestyle is one of the things Applewood encourages, explains Reilly. “Our approach isn’t just about behaving at school,” he explained. “Living well is a lifestyle choice. You have to make that choice across the board, you can’t just fake it.”

That choice has made a big difference for Steven. “At my old high school, I never did work, I never went to school. I was getting high every day and I wasn’t interested in anything. My goal right now is to finish my lessons on fractions, decimals, and percentages before the end of today.”

And he did.

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* The names and images in this article have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.*