Hope in Action
It’s the beginning of a new chapter for Ray of Hope as we welcome our new Chief Executive Officer, Tonya Verburg. Tonya is taking over for Harry Whyte, who’s retiring. Look for an interview with Tonya in an upcoming issue of Hope in Action!
And in this issue, learn about Amy Stewart, a dedicated teacher who is making a huge difference for youth in our addictions treatment and justice programs, one course at a time.
A course in caring
A mother at 17, Amy Stewart dreamed of one day teaching at Monica Place, the organization that supported her during her pregnancy.
She achieved that goal. And now she’s helping to change the lives of young people who have been impacted by addiction, crime and neglect.
For the past two years, Amy has taught in Ray of Hope’s Day Treatment program, which helps kids overcome substance abuse.
Until she arrived on a temporary transfer from Monica House in 2016, students in the program weren’t able to earn high school credits while in treatment.
That meant that they basically had to put their education on hold. Some students (and their parents) worried about falling behind academically and left the program early.
“Amy came to us with the specific task of developing courses based on the work students do in treatment,” says Glynis Burkhalter, Youth Addiction Services’ Program Director.
“She collaborated with our staff and together they found ways to map existing, well-developed treatment components on to courses in the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum. That means the treatment activities students regularly participate in count towards their academic success.”
Now, students in the program can earn up to four credits for the communications, life skills and phys ed courses they complete, just like students in mainstream schools. (Students may also complete other regular school courses taught by Amy.)
They can take the time they need to heal without feeling like they’re falling behind. They stay in treatment longer. And they have time to develop deeper relationships with staff — relationships that support them through their time in the program and beyond.
This isn’t Amy’s first experience with Ray of Hope. She taught for eight years at our Secure Custody facility before moving to Monica Place. And her past experience was part of the reason she agreed to return.
“I was very intrigued by the [treatment] program,” Amy says. “I know Ray of Hope well and love what they do and what they stand for. So, I was excited to come over here.”
Working with at-risk youth isn’t for everyone. What is it about these kids that draws Amy to them?
“It’s challenging but I love the attitude that some of them come in with,” she says. “It’s inspiring to watch them rise above the hand that they’ve been dealt in life. I love every single one of these kids.”
And the youth respond.
“Amy comes to these students without judgment,” Glynis says. “She brings compassion and they feel it.”
Students like the young man who, Amy remembers, “basically grew up with us at Secure. He didn’t have a great home life and his dad passed away while he was in custody. He had to grieve while he was in jail. But he reached out for emotional support and got his life turned around. Now he’s running a successful business.”
And in the day treatment program, Amy has watched as kids who were once addicted to crystal meth get clean, repair family relationships, move back home and prepare to graduate.
Sadly, this is Amy’s last semester with the Day Treatment program. In September, she’ll be back at Monica Place.
But she leaves behind the courses she’s developed that teachers in other programs can use. In fact, the Residential treatment program will offer an educational component starting in September, and Amy’s work will be available to complement the Teacher’s efforts while designing the new education program there.
When asked why she pours her time and talent into helping kids that other people might want to give up on, Amy has a simple answer:
“Because they’re amazing human beings.”
“For some, their life goal becomes serving others because they’ve been served,” she says. “They want to become involved in law enforcement or as a child youth worker or a counselor. And I think that they’ll be the best people to serve others because they’ve been here. Investing in these youth is investing not only in them now, but in their future as well.”
“I have full faith in them.”
Shrinking government funding means that support from generous donors like you has become even more important to our youth addictions programs. Your gifts can provide participants with food when they arrive hungry, or help to subsidize recreational activities that are a key component of treatment. If you’d like to help young people fight addiction and rebuild their lives, please consider donating today by contacting Chief Development Officer Scott Brush at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
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