Monday, September 22, 2008

Helping Troubled Kids: A Summer Internship

“I had the privilege of working in a group home of 10-12 boys, ages 15-17 at Youth Villages this summer,” says senior Katy Keith, who is majoring in youth ministry and completed her internship in Memphis, Tennessee.
“Youth Villages is a large organization that works with troubled children who come from rough pasts and home lives.” The boys Katy worked with had issues ranging from anger to physical and sexual abuse to crime.
“My responsibilities varied depending on my shift, but usually I spent time with the residents, talking and getting to know them better, and correcting them as needed. All of them come from ‘darker’ childhoods that have permanently impacted who they are today, meaning most are from abusive families, have been or are still involved with gangs, and some have even been in jail. My biggest role was to be a guide. That was hard because no one likes being told they are doing something wrong.
“The most difficult thing was having to go through with a required task even if it meant upsetting a resident (for example, taking points away for poor behavior). There were many times when I had to ignore the fact that I was being cussed out, yelled at, and seriously threatened. I was trained to not take anything personally because it was not me they were necessarily angry with; I just happened to be there to get the blow.
“My favorite memory is of helping one of the residents fill out a college application. I could see the anxious hope in his eyes as he asked me to help him with it, and the desire to make his life better. It felt great knowing I could encourage this young man in his endeavors to accomplish what most of his peers believe they cannot accomplish. I know for a fact that he is going against the odds, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
“The experience was extremely challenging but was also very eye-opening. What these kids really need is guidance and someone who is not afraid to correct them in firm love. I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”

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