“When a student at East Leyden High School named Max was first referred to our program, he did not trust our Advocates. He was 17 years old and had moved several times from other schools due to his behavior and poor academic performance. Now at a new school, he was still failing most of his classes. He also wouldn’t talk to anyone: to students, teachers or our Advocates. Some teachers assumed Max was physically unable to talk.
Like many kids in the Advocacy Program, Max grew up in a family where they expressed their needs by yelling and using physical force. Aside from emotional abuse, his family also suffered from transgenerational drug and alcohol addiction.
After several months, Max began to trust advocates and to see our program as a safe space. He started answering ‘yes or no’ questions and after some time, he would answer open-ended questions too. He’d tell us how every school day presented an obstacle—how his family would be fighting first thing in the morning, or how he couldn’t sleep because his brother was using drugs—but that the program was giving him hope.
Slowly but surely, Max improved his academics as well. He became friends with fellow students. And he graduated. As Max departed our program, he said something that showed me how much our work matters. ‘The last time I passed all my classes was 5th grade. I didn’t know I still had it in me.’”