“You don’t realize how much you are helping kids. You’re doing more than you ever thought. I never expected I’d make it past 18.”
By the time Melinda* was 16, she had experienced more of the tragic side of life than many others do in a lifetime. Panic attacks, alcohol abuse, self-inflicted injuries, depression and contemplation of suicide — all were part of her daily life and made worse by her bipolar disorder. By some estimations, Melinda’s future was hopeless. After dropping out of other schools, 16-year-old Melinda was enrolled at the San Diego Center for Children Academy — but she refused to attend.
“My anxiety was too high, so I was determined not to go,” she recalls. But after her assigned teacher visited her and said he would help her every step of the way, she reconsidered. Melinda finally came to class but in her words, “I would not talk to any of the kids. I didn’t want to be there. I had a negative outlook on everything and everybody.”
But with the help of her teacher and therapists, Melinda’s confidence grew. “I started opening up and made friends. I just loved that school . . .” Her teacher kept telling her that they were going to get through this — together. “I didn’t believe it. I was convinced I was going to die before I was 18. But the staff and teachers taught me that there are good adults out there and they won’t hurt you.”
That nurturing by our team helped Melinda flourish in school, and by the end of her first year at the Academy, she received the school-wide award for academic excellence. Through the work of the Academy and Melinda’s own determination to survive and thrive, she graduated and enrolled in college. Her dream is to come back to the Academy — this time as a teacher — to give back by helping other children.
In thanking supporters who help make the work of the Center for Children possible, Melinda says, “You’re doing something actually great… beyond what you know. You don’t realize how much you are helping kids. You’re doing more than you ever thought. I never expected I’d make it past 18. The Center did that for me. I needed to have the drive, but the Center has given so much support. If I can do it, I know others who are struggling can too.”
*Students’ names are changed to protect privacy.