For nearly 10 years I have had the privilege to work with many amazing teenagers as a youth director at a local church. Over the years this work has challenged me both emotionally and spiritually. In the times of these challenges, both good and bad, I have often reminded myself of why I do what I do. I do this work not only because I feel this is truly what I am called to do in life, but also because of the great impact someone else had on me as a teenager and the commitment I made to myself many years before I began my career to make a similar impact in the life of at least one teenager.
As a high school student I struggled as any teen does with school, friends, romantic relationships…but I also struggled emotionally as my parents went through periods of separation and my dad battled alcoholism. The difficulties I had going on in my home life spilled over into all the other aspects of my life; school, friends, extra-curricular activities, etc. As I journeyed through this part of my life and all that it brought, I needed support and someone to talk to. The person I was able to talk to was my school guidance counselor, Ms. Allen. Ms. Allen listened to me, she let me cry when I needed to cry, she let me be me and cared about me and my well-being through all of the ups and downs of my life throughout my four years in high school. Ms. Allen was a constant for me, as a constant support and strength, helping me in every aspect of my life, even though I only saw her once or twice a week at school. I knew that if ever I needed someone to listen, or a shoulder to cry on, I could walk to her office and find comfort and peace. I truly believe that if it had not been for the wonderful relationship I established with Ms. Allen as a ninth grader, I would never have made it through high school without significant emotional problems. Ms. Allen forever impacted me and has helped shape me into the woman I am today.
So now, as I work with teenagers struggling with all that life throws their way, I remember Ms. Allen and how she helped me. I remind myself that if I can impact just one teen the way she impacted my life, and me I will have accomplished great things. I strive everyday to do this.
Who has impacted your life and helped you to become who you are today? How are you impacting the teenagers you interact with? I wish for every teen to have a Ms. Allen in their life. Maybe you already are a Ms. Allen for someone, even if you do not know it!
~Stephanie K., Indiana University School of Social Work