Michelle is a bright young woman who found herself at the Austin Children’s Shelter because of getting in trouble with the law. Her story is one of hope for so many teens who come to the Shelter.
In Her Own Words: Michelle’s Story
Although I was only at Austin Children’s Shelter for three short months, it was a life changing experience for me. I was inspired to become a better person and to do something with my life.
At the age of three I was taken from a broken home, along with my three brothers and two sisters. Although we had visitation with each other, we bounced from one foster home to the next. This was especially hard on my two sisters and I because we were so young.
When I turned twelve years old we had all been reunited with my mother. However, my mom was still unable to care for younger children. She decided to send my two sisters and I to Texas to live with our father. My brothers were older, so they stayed in Florida with our mom.
As I sat in the back seat of the pickup truck that took us to Texas, I thought to myself, “Wow, a new start to a normal life.” Something I’d always wanted. But I was still nervous since my dad was such a stranger to me at this point in my life.
The town I moved to was very different than what I was used to. I would go to school only to come home and watch my little sisters until my dad got home. Living with my father, I had a lot of responsibility at the age of twelve. My dad remarried and it opened the doors to a variety of opportunities for me. I played volleyball and was on the cheerleading squad. I was a good student that had everything going for me, and then I began high school.
My sophomore year, I began to hang out with the wrong crowd. My behavior became very destructive and was influenced by drug use. It slowly went downhill for me and I became very hateful. I stopped playing sports and my grades dropped quickly. Months later, I hit rock bottom. My father and stepmother became very angry and were fed up with it all. They kicked me out of their home, which was one of the best things they could have done for me.
While living on my own, I got in trouble with the police and went to juvenile detention. I spent the night there and was taken to the Austin Children’s Shelter the next day. I felt confused and upset when I first got there. Even though the staff were warm and welcoming, I was not.
As the days passed, I began to open up more and more. I met with my personal counselor everyday, which helped me to become more comfortable at the shelter. We always had something to do, from playing basketball to doing arts and crafts.
One of my fondest memories was a week of fun called “Discovery Week.” Through out this week, we went to museums, parks, and even to paint our own pottery. This week was filled with a lot of fun, but also a lot of learning, too.
I celebrated my seventeenth birthday at the Austin Children’s Shelter and it was one of the most memorable one I have had. They went out of their way to make sure that I had a fun filled day and to let me know that I was an important person.
The staff at the Austin Children’s Shelter always listened, no matter what the topic was and they didn’t judge. They knew just how to make the children feel good about themselves. The longer I stayed at the Austin Children’s Shelter, the more comfortable I became with the staff and other kids. I never even thought about how temporary it was, until the day I found out I was leaving to go to rehab.
I was sitting in my group-counseling meeting, when I received a phone call from my caseworker. She told me that I would be moving from the Austin Children’s Shelter to rehab. After I hung up the phone, I went back to my meeting and cried until the end of the meeting. I was very upset for the rest of the day. I didn’t want to leave. I liked it there. The group and the counselor helped me to realize that I have to make the best out of things and that it would help me to become a better person. So, I left the shelter knowing I could do anything I put my mind to. Along with this newfound self-confidence and strength, I also left with a lot of happy memories that I will treasure forever. I went off to finish my rehab program and became sober. When I left rehab, I moved back to Austin to graduate from high school. I am now twenty years old, working fulltime as a waitress and living with my high school sweetheart. I have been sober for four years and live my life to the fullest each and every day. I will soon start college to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher at the Deaf school in Austin.
I could not have achieved any of this without the encouragement from the staff at Austin Children’s Shelter, especially one in particular named Angelica. She made me feel good about myself during a time in my life when I needed it the most. I am grateful for the time that I spent and the experiences that I had at Austin Children’s Shelter. They made a difference in my life and will continue to make a difference in other children’s lives.