Meet Ralph: From Boy to Father

Written by Workhorse Marketing

Growing up with his mom wasn’t easy for Ralph.  “We moved around a lot” and lived in what he described as pretty horrible conditions.  “The worst part,” he said, “was not being in a stable environment” including not even knowing when he would eat next.

Last fall, Ralph got himself into trouble and wound up in juvenile detention for two months.  After his release in December 2010, and with his mother incarcerated, Ralph was brought to ACS which he says “helped me turn my life around.”

Ralph started in our Emergency Shelter and was very troubled when he first arrived at ACS. But the Youth Care staff in his cottage spent a lot of time with him during those first few weeks and he quickly adjusted to life on our campus.  He says that his cottage felt like a home and it gave him a sense of stability that he doesn’t remember having before.  “The staff listened and talked with me whenever I was sad.”

“The initial adjustment for the young people in our Emergency Shelter can be very traumatic” says Sheerin Hall, Director of Therapeutic Services. “Whether with us for a day or sometimes a year or more, the priority of our Youth Care staff is to provide our clients stability, assess and meet their immediate and longer-term needs, and prepare them for their future.”

When Ralph thinks back on his first few months at ACS, he said it was the little things that made a difference to him – like going on walks, doing fun things, and staff teaching him to dress well and iron his clothes.  “They even helped me go to church when I wanted to.”  Youth Care staff navigated Ralph through the rough times and told him he could do whatever he set his mind to.  “The staff are involved with the kids and gives a lot of love,” he said, “and love helps you grow.”

It was during those first few months that Ralph realized that he needed to make some changes in his life – mostly so he could be there for his three-year old daughter and two-year old son.  His own father was a big part of his life until his death eight years ago, spending time together biking, fishing, learning to box and even deer hunting. And Ralph wants to be that kind of dad.  “I love my kids and see them every other day. Anyone can be a father but not everyone can be a dad. That’s something different. ” He adores his kids and knows that he has a responsibility to support them.  And to do that, he knows he has to be able to get a good job.

Ralph turned 18 earlier this year and was accepted into our Transitional Living Program where the goal is for clients to learn independence and prepare for life after ACS.  Early on Ralph discovered that he had poor time management skills, and staff quickly helped him work on that because they knew he had ambitious goals.

Today, Ralph is at school from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., works part time at McDonald’s, and volunteers several hours per week for Computer Corps, a pilot program at American Youth Works that provides computer repairs and training to low income families.  He also continues to spend as much time as possible with his kids.

Ralph’s immediate goals are to finish the program at American YouthWorks and finish his high school diploma through a program that earns high school and college credit at the same time. When asked how long he plans to stay at ACS, he said “as long as they let me.”