“I don’t know where I’d be today if I had not gone to Shelterwood.”

Kate Reedy was a junior when she transferred high schools and fell in with the wrong crowd. “From the first week of the school year, I was going to school drunk,” Kate recalls. “The year was full of parties and I was getting involved with the wrong people.” That April marked one of Kate’s lowest moments. “Several of us got drunk at a rally and we were questioned by not only the school principal, but by the police as well. All four of us were arrested,” she remembers. Within a week, Kate was headed to Shelterwood, a turning point in her story.

“My arrest that April was a huge red flag for my family about everything else that had been going on during the year,” Kate says. “My parents knew I’d been drinking, but it didn’t hit them hard until I was being read my rights. Looking back, it was a huge wakeup call for my parents.”

Kate summarizes her arrival at Shelterwood in one word: relief. “I tried to keep a hard face on, but deep down, I was glad I was getting help. I got out of the car when we arrived at Shelterwood and I didn’t even cry . . . I was just so relieved to be there. I knew this was my chance. I knew I needed this and so I took it seriously.”

Kate’s therapeutic experience was particularly impactful, she shares. “My therapist made me feel like I was family,” she says. “I never felt rushed in our sessions and he gave me the time I needed, the time to talk everything through.” She feels the same about the young adult Mentors and even the kitchen staff. “Someone was always there for me. For someone like me who had been through so much, that’s so important.”

Without the distractions and pressure she’d experienced back at school, Kate felt free to explore her spirituality. “The God factor at Shelterwood is amazing. Everyone there has a purpose to live for God. The chapel services, church, Bible studies . . . all of it became important to me. Being away from the phone, the TV, the Internet and social media, I was not distracted by my phone and so I was able to focus on those things.”

kate reedy 576x1024 “I don’t know where I’d be today if I had not gone to Shelterwood.”

Academically, Kate had the space and time at Shelterwood to excel. No longer under the negative influence of her peers at high school, Kate was determined to complete coursework and graduate high school. “I was able to graduate high school early because of the classes at Shelterwood. I know many therapeutic programs do not allow that, and if I had been somewhere else, I could have fallen behind. All the teachers were awesome and helpful.”

After a nine month stay at Shelterwood, Kate graduated. The transition home was somewhat challenging, Kate admits. “I got home during February of what would have been my senior year in high school. All my old friends were still in school. I struggled a lot being back home and trying to find the right relationships.”

“Everything was not suddenly perfect at home because I’d been to Shelterwood,” Kate shares, reflecting that no relationship is ever perfect. She knew her parents had been working just as hard at home as she had been at Shelterwood. “You will not come home and find that everything is suddenly great. I cannot stress enough how important it was for me to have that patience. Today, my mom is my very best friend and I cherish that relationship. That would not be the case without Shelterwood. I have good relationships with my family again, and that is so special.”

Kate is excelling professionally today too, and is proud of her career. Working in property management for a homeowners’ association, “most of my work is in customer service. I love talking to people!” she smiles.

The decisions Kate makes today lie in stark contrast to those she made before Shelterwood. “The friends I pick today are different, my priorities are different, even the guys I date are totally different. I wouldn’t have had goals or expectations for myself if I had not been to Shelterwood.” Kate attributes the shift to the confidence she gained while at Shelterwood. “I learned not to be scared to tell my story and to own my story.”

Most importantly, Kate says, she cherishes her relationship with God. “God is now a huge part of my life. I don’t know where I’d be today if I had not gone to Shelterwood.”

“Our son learned to trust, open his heart to love himself, then love and be loved by others.”

Failure to thrive: Mary and her husband could not quite pinpoint the root of their son Alex’s struggles. “We felt we were failing as parents and he felt he was a failure as well,” Mary recalls. They’d tried everything they knew to identify and resolve the problems. After years of struggle, they made the difficult choice to send Alex to Shelterwood. Today, months after graduation, Alex is thriving — academically, socially and, most importantly, in stronger family relationships.

“Our son learned to trust, open his heart to love himself, then love and be loved by others,” Mary says. “Unquestionably, only the power of God working through the skillful and generous Shelterwood team could have achieved this healing.”

Her son was floundering before Shelterwood, Mary recalls. “For several years before we discovered Shelterwood, he had been experiencing increasing difficulties in school and in his relationships. Although he had not embarked on any really dangerous activities, we believed that he was potentially headed in that direction,” she says. “He did not have a positive self-worth, did not believe in his future, was squandering his talents and gifts, isolated himself and was engaging in increasingly provocative exchanges with family members.”

Mary and her husband began researching therapeutic boarding school and residential treatment agency options at the end of Alex’s first sophomore year semester. After an unpleasant Christmas holiday, when his grades revealed that he had not passed three of his classes despite repeated warnings, they began to explore residential treatment agencies and therapeutic boarding school options online.

“The first facility that seemed like a possibility really resonated with us and our values: Shelterwood,” Mary says. “We liked what we read and I called; from the very first conversation with the Admissions staff, which was supportive and understanding, I felt that we had found a good fit for our son. My husband and I made the difficult decision to take our son 1,600 miles from home and leave him with strangers in a place we had only seen in photos. It was truly a leap of faith.”

SW Arch 50 Edit “Our son learned to trust, open his heart to love himself, then love and be loved by others.”

Yet, Mary and her husband felt remarkably comfortable after setting foot on the Shelterwood campus. “We immediately sensed that the Shelterwood staff were genuinely kind, compassionate, loving, talented, intelligent, fully-trained, Christian individuals working as a well-organized team for the best interest of the young people in their care. Rather than being overcome by sadness, we actually felt relieved and hopeful as we drove to the airport to return home, feeling we had made a decision that would help to save him.”

“Shelterwood obviously worked closely with our son, in therapy and in every aspect of his day,” Mary says. “God clearly opened up new opportunities for our son and our family working through the staff. Through a process of faith-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which was completely new to us, our beautiful son was able to believe in his own self-worth and begin to emerge from the depression that had been coloring every part of his life.”

While Alex was hard at work on the Shelterwood campus, Mary and her husband were also hard at work back home. “My son appreciates that his parents also had to grow and change. We learned patience – not something that came naturally to anyone in our family. The parent and family therapy we participated in was priceless and critical to our continued success. Our therapist came to know and understand and love our son and our family and spoke honestly; he gave us advice and tools to use together to help create a healthier relationship. We are not perfect, but we are considerably better parents and a healthier family as a result.”

Alex spent nine months at Shelterwood: longer than Mary and her husband anticipated, but it was time well spent. “Once he was able to see clearly who he is, he has been able to engage in happier and healthier relationships and discontinue torpedoing his own efforts at success. Understanding and embracing that he is a beloved child of God was critical to his healing.”

Academically, Alex’s performance has improved dramatically since his return home from Shelterwood — even receiving a coveted spot on his school’s Honor Roll. He has also reconnected with his church youth group and Boy Scout troop, where he is firmly on the path to earning the prestigious Eagle Scout award.

Most significantly, Alex’s relationships with family are stronger than ever. “His relationship with his siblings has improved immeasurably, and our most recent holiday season was the most peaceful and harmonious one that we have enjoyed in years. He laughs now and participates in dinner conversation. He likes to hang out with his younger sister and enjoyed shopping with his older siblings during the holidays, which would have been formerly unthinkable.” Alex even collaborated with his siblings on a special Christmas surprise for their parents: a professional family portrait.

Looking back at their Shelterwood decision, and looking forward at who Alex is today, Mary and her husband know it was a life-changing choice for their family. “We knew that if we did not do something when we did, it was likely that we would not have the opportunity to either help him later, or enjoy the relationships we hope for in the future. We would not hesitate to do it again. It was money that we could not have possibly spent for anything more important. I firmly believe that God’s hand was involved in helping us to make the choice for him to attend Shelterwood and in facilitating the positive outcome.”

“I am proud of life after Shelterwood.”

For Gio Scardino, high school was a time of pain and struggle. After hitting one of his lowest moments, Gio found real redemption at Shelterwood — and he graduated having found the true fulfillment he was searching for all along. Gio shares his story:

 

My priorities were off when entering high school. I was focused on fitting in and living a life for myself. I was desperately trying to fill a void that unbeknownst to me could only be fulfilled through an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. In efforts to fill this void, I pursued “the popular life.” Enrolled at a high school where the students were inflicted with affluence, temptation was ever-present. It did not take long before I was headed on a downward and ugly path. Poor decisions of drinking, partying, and smoking (marijuana) quickly transitioned into daily poor habits.

In a year and a half timeframe (sophomore year to second semester of junior year) my life spun out of control. I had successfully filled my life with things that held no true value. Running with the “popular crowd” led me into a life of smoking regularly, heavily dealing marijuana, drinking alcohol/partying, drug-related suspensions, police tickets/arrests, and severe car accidents. As if that wasn’t enough, a three-month drug investigation ensued at my high school. On the very last day of the drug investigation I was escorted out of class by the Dean of Students, rather than Security. This was the ultimate breaking point in my journey of self-destruction. In the Dean’s office I was informed that the school and local municipalities had subpoenaed my phone, dating back one year, obtaining full access to personal phone calls, text messages, emails, and social media. They had discovered an ugly track record of substance abuse, and I was immediately given a ten-day out of school suspension with a recommendation of expulsion.

In desperate need of help, my parents loved me when I did not deserve to be loved. They proceeded to do what few parents would have the courage to do; they sought out a specialized growth opportunity for me to begin making genuine change in my life. God exceedingly answered my parent’s prayer by presenting us with the incredible opportunity of Shelterwood located in Independence, Missouri. God used Shelterwood to transform our story. When entering Shelterwood I could not have been less interested in enrollment, but I was in a place in my life where I needed healthy influences and people to make positive decisions for me. At Shelterwood I faced some of the most difficult hardships ever, but with the help of God, my parents, the Shelterwood community, and through hard work, my life began to change for the better. I reflected on my many wrong doings and began understanding just how serious the pain I had inflicted upon others and myself. I had always believed in God, but it was at Shelterwood where I developed a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. Shelterwood will always be remembered by my family and me, as it was used in such a powerful way to refocus us all on what God had intended for our lives.

 

SW Testimonial Giovanni S. I am proud of life after Shelterwood.

I graduated from Shelterwood on October 25, 2012, and returned to Chicago. Shortly thereafter I graduated from my original high school. My parents and I never thought that me crossing the high school graduation line would have ever been an act of God, but it turned out to be exactly that. Since Shelterwood, God has gifted me with opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. I have been able to serve with mission teams in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Nadi, Fiji. I embarked upon a yearlong discipleship program, known as the Kanakuk Link Year, where I focused on growing in relationship with God and developing meaningful friendships. Following Link Year, I transferred to North Park University. Currently, I am in my senior year and plan to graduate in May 2017 with a B.S. in Business Management. Intermittently throughout Link Year and North Park, I have been actively involved with the National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) and the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) in Washington, D.C. where I have had the privilege of leading many friends to be part of such meaningful gatherings. I have pursued the industry of Commercial Real Estate for four years now and have been privileged to work four different internships spanning three major metropolitan cities, Chicago, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. Above all, since Shelterwood, my focus has been learning how to walk with Jesus Christ daily, develop meaningful relationships, and love people well.