[pullquote align="right"]According to aerodynamic laws, the bumblebee cannot fly; its body-weight is not the right proportion to its wingspan. Ignoring these laws, the bee flies anyway. – M. Sainte-Lague[/pullquote]This quote is the perfect example of myself and many other resilient young people.

Upon entering Choices for Youth, I didn’t have much going for me. I was a high school dropout, homeless, had some mental health issues, and due to family breakdown, hadn’t spoken to my mother for a couple of years. What I did have, however, was a desire to succeed that just needed to be nurtured in order for me to grow and blossom.

When I first walked into Choices for Youth, I was introduced to Shirley, who told me that she would be my worker. What I didn’t know at the time was that this little lady would change my life.

Starting off, I was very quiet. Shirley would ask how things were going and I would reply “fine,” and then ask her if I could get my cheque. After a couple of months when I decided she could handle what I had to say, I did something that I very rarely do—I let her in. What came next really surprised me.

She listened to what I had to say, she didn’t belittle me and make me feel as though my problems weren’t worth her time, she never rushed me and would sit there for as long as it took me to get out what I was trying to say. She could also see right through me when I would lie and say that things were “best kind,” and somehow she would always be able to get me to open up. She earned my respect in a very short amount of time and helped me get my life back on track. She helped me get into school and was there when I graduated. She used to tell me how intelligent I was—the first person to ever say so. She helped me believe in myself and discover that I could become the person I wanted to be.

When I finished my ABE, it was time to decide the direction I wanted to steer the rest of my life towards. I met a Child and Youth Care student who was doing her field placement under Shirley and, after talking to her for a little while, I knew that was what I was going to do. I loved the program and I knew that I would have a lot of personal experience to offer the young people in my care. Everything was going great until it came time for my first field placement in November 2007. I received a phone call from my grandmother informing me that my mother had terminal cancer.

My whole world that I had worked so hard to build seemed to come tumbling down around me. I wasn’t prepared to handle the emotions that followed the news. I immediately called Shirley. I knew that I had to make peace with my mom but I didn’t know how I could possibly do it on my own. Shirley came to pick me up, and over coffee we discussed a game plan. I was scared, and we both knew it would not be easy, considering I hadn’t spoken to my mom for five years.

Through talking with her on the phone, we decided that the best option would be for my mom to come into the Choices for Youth building and have our initial meeting with both my grandmother and Shirley present. I don’t know if she knew how much it meant to have her there. Shortly after that first reunion, Mom was admitted to the hospital. Shirley would come pick me up and we would go together. When things got tense, Shirley was the calm voice I needed to hear to get through it. I had so many mixed emotions at the time that I would sometimes say things I didn’t really mean and she would just listen. She never made me feel bad for anything I said.

As time went on, I was finally able to speak to my mom by myself and it felt great. We reconnected and the love I felt for her when I was younger was rekindled. In February 2008, she passed away. It was the hardest day of my life. I didn’t want for things to end the way they did; I finally had my mom back only for her to be taken away again. With everything that was going on in my life, my education had slipped and I was then faced with whether or not I was going to continue on that semester.

I knew how proud it would make my mom so I carried on. It was so hard but I managed to get through it and, as always, Shirley was right beside me every step of the way to cheer me on and keep me going. In October 2008, I am proud to say that I became the first member of my immediate family to graduate college. I am now a Child and Youth Care Worker, and loving every minute of my career.

If it weren’t for the support I received while in Choices for Youth, I don’t know where I would be today. Not only did they help me with the big things, it was also the small things that made a big difference: things like a birthday cake every year, a present at Christmas, and a chocolate bunny at Easter.

Like the bumblebee, I was able to ignore the odds stacked against me and fly, anyway.