In Their Own Words

The following are letters, papers and thoughts from Arrowhead students.

I thank Arrowhead for everything they helped me through.  I thank all the teachers who helped me learn new things and helped me understand work I didn’t know.  I thank all the staff who were there for me when I went through struggles.  I’m the Ladaria I always wished to be; the Ladaria who’s smart, friendly, and a good citizen.  I love everybody around me.  Arrowhead has taught and helped me a lot.  I can say I changed because I wanted to, not because I had to.  I changed for the better.  I changed because I didn’t want that old life anymore.  I’m free.  Thank you to all of the staff who helped me throughout my stay at Arrowhead.
— Ladaria
In 2009, I was expelled from my previous school for reasons like fighting, disrespecting authority, and bringing weapons to school.  At that point in my life, I could not have cared less about my future; it was all about living in the moment for me.  When I was enrolled in the Arrowhead Safe School Program, I didn’t take it seriously.  I remember my teacher, Mr. Knob, always trying to talk some sense into us.  He was a great person who cared about our well-being, not because he had to, but because he wanted to see us become successful young adults.  But my classmates and I never listened to what he had to say.  We laughed when he said, “You guys are going to end up living here.”  Little did we know was that the center of our jokes would become our reality.

After I graduated the Arrowhead Safe School Program, I was sent to Coolidge Alternative School.  I was told that if I completed a quarter with all passing grades and no problems, I would be able to attend Moline High School.  I buckled down and stayed out of trouble.  When I passed, I asked the principal if I would be starting the next quarter off at Moline High School.  His response was discouraging: “Finish off the rest of the year here.”  I felt I had been swindled and cheated.  I was mad at the world and full of self-pity.  I took it out on society by committing residential burglary, theft, and assault.  I was also a runaway for a total of one year.  During that time period, I joined a gang with two other people who had attended the Arrowhead Safe School Program.  I didn’t care about my future and continued to spiral downhill until I was saved by something I would never have viewed as help in the past: the judicial system.

When I was arrested, I was sent to the Mary Davis Home for about 35 days. During that time, a woman named Ms. Reyes came to interview me to see if I would be eligible to be placed in the Arrowhead Program.  At that moment, I remembered how I used to say I would never be placed at Arrowhead and how my friends and I laughed at the residents that lived there.  I never thought of how much hurt I had caused and how much I had hurt myself with my actions.

The day I walked into Arrowhead, I saw the same two classmates I had joined a gang with staring at me from across the room. Right then and there, something told me that I had to get my life together or I would be in prison or dead.  From that day on, I have been determined to find and fix all of my flaws.  Something that has really helped me is that all of my staff (Mr. Collins, Mr. Banks, Mr. Cunningham, Ms. Bowling, Mr. Muskeyvalley, and Mr. Sottos) are really supportive.  They are ready and willing to supply any help I need no matter what.  During my stay here at Arrowhead, I have met many challenges, but there hasn’t been one that I haven’t been able to work through.  I keep improving my problem-solving skills by dealing with adversity, which has also aided me in sharing my knowledge to help others.  Mr. Muskeyvalley, my amazing therapist,has helped me come up with an education plan that will allow me to attend college in the fall.

I am currently transitioning back into society, and I feel confident that I have all of the tools that I need to be successful.  All I have to do is use them and everything else will fall into place.  There is hope for me.  I’m young and I have what it takes to push through life’s challenges without pushing myself aside at the same time.  All of this is possible because of Arrowhead, and for that I will be forever thankful.
— Rachad, Arrowhead Resident
“You started thinking that what you were doing was easy, but you were also forgetting what it cost.” 

That quote had my heart beating as fast as the speed of light and my eyes as big as silver dollars.  When I first came across it, I was lying on the cement slab where I had to sleep.  At that moment, it became even more real to me where my life was headed and why I was where I was: jail.  At sixteen years of age, I spent thirty-four long days in jail.  I don’t think I ever felt so alone as I did during my confinement, but I can’t help but think it changed my life forever.

Criminal damage to government property, battery, two counts of harassment of a witness, and disorderly conduct.  Those were my charges, my mistakes, and the reasons I ended up at Arrowhead.  My personal opinions of how I ended up at Arrowhead concur with the theory that what I think is how I act.  I tried to wear shoes that were too big, and I played my actions off with the “I’m just a kid” excuse for far too long.  Combining my attitude that I could get away with things with my sense of humor was a recipe for disaster.  Also, a month prior to my confinement, I lost my mother.  The constant struggle with addiction had devoured my mother for years.  It felt like a knife in the center of my heart when the judge made his decision. “Four years in the Illinois Department of Corrections” were the piercing words that still seem so vivid in my mind.  I adored and cherished the relationship my mother and I shared, and in a split second, it had been taken away.  All of these different elements created one large concoction of trouble that quickly caught up with me.

Despite the agony that came from the situation involving my mother and the excuses I made for myself, there lay a light that twinkled as bright and luminous as the night’s star.  The light symbolized my future and how it was in the palm of my hands.  Realizing the act of free will and choice really gave me a better perspective.  I was finally able to see that everything in life boils down to the choices I make and the attitude I possess. However, that knowledge did not just magically appear in my mind.  I learned it during my journey at Arrowhead.  It was quite overwhelming to endure all of the love and wisdom from the people at Arrowhead, but it helped me be a better person.  The negative choices and circumstances turned into an exceptionally positive experience at Arrowhead.

Throughout my stay at Arrowhead, I often wondered when my transformation would become apparent. Every day, every week, every month, I would search for the difference in myself.  I never truly saw a change in myself until I wore myself out looking for one.  When I focused solely on myself and not on my time at Arrowhead, I noticed the changes that had taken place inside me.  I believed that I would always be the Claire I was when I was first born, but my attitude and my values would be rewired to accompany me in a better life.

In the end, it is neither the circumstances nor the material items that controlled the direction of my life.  The attitude I chose to possess and the choices I made judged the course of my life.  I experienced the reality of my devious attitude and my negative choices.  On the bright side, I have also experienced the beauty and hardships of change deep within.  Arrowhead has impacted my life forever, and my heart holds an immense amount of thanks and love to the people who were part of that.
— Claire, Arrowhead Resident