A Day in the Life: Through a Student’s Eyes
Every weekday morning at 6:40, the lights in my room flick on. Usually, this sudden brightness is accompanied by a loud but cheerful, “Good Morning Boys!” This is the start of my day. I look at the clock: 6:42. I know that I have 48 minutes until the morning bus leaves to the school house. I debate in my head, “Do I take a shower this morning or sleep in longer?” I roll over and out of my top bunk. I ask my three roommates if they mind if I use the bathroom first; they don’t mind this time. So, I walk down the hall still half asleep. I utilize that time to change, wash my face, and brush my teeth. When I’m finished I walk downstairs to get my meds. I feel more awake now and a smile spreads across my face as (Program Manager), Stepanie greets me with a hug and a “Good Morning.” I wander around the corner to the med room door. I wait in line behind one person, asking my peers how they slept and debating what might be for breakfast. Today, when it’s my turn, I enter my code and take my medication. After tossing my water cup, (staff) Craig, reminds me of his daily hug. If you can’t tell, hugs are an important part of Ashcreek.
At 7:30, we all load into the van and head to the Westfield House for school. Once we come through the door, we see that breakfast is muffins and fruit. This is a good breakfast day, and we are all thoroughly excited. As we finish our food, (Principal) Janette, announces that the table spray is coming around, indicating we need to start on our chores. The kitchen becomes a mix of people and chatter as we all complete our assigned jobs.
At 8:00 am, we begin our first period. For me, I have Pre-Calc with Ted. I’m not really a fan of math, however, two of my closest friends are in that class. So, I look forward to struggling to graph Sine and Cosine together. After the first period, we have a quick five minute break and head to our second class. I have a study hall this period so I grab a Chromebook and my Science notebook and go upstairs to the couch to begin reading the assigned chapter. As the second period ends, I head back downstairs to my ELA class. Once the clock hits 10:55, everyone heads back upstairs to the kitchen for a snack. After our ten minute break, I head to my favorite class: Career Skills with Kera. After talking about résumé and paths to college, it’s time for lunch. I step out of the classroom and instantly smell whatever amazing concoction Janette is making for lunch. We all hurry into the kitchen, seeing that today we are having cheese burgers and salad. As we all sit down to eat, the conversations flow around me. We talk about our classes, what teachers we like, who got kicked out of class, and what our experiential therapy will be. Lunch wraps up around 12:20 and we all get on our chores. When we are finished, we head to our final class. I look down at my schedule and am reminded I have Spanish. Through the next 55 minutes we pronounce the Spanish alphabet and challenge each other to see who can say it the quickest. Our last period ends quickly and we all get in the van to head home.
When we arrive, we go upstairs to the rec room to find out what our experiential therapy is. (Clinical Director) Dave and Steph come up with our afternoon experiential activity and then announce that one group will be going to the pool and another group will be going down to the studio to make music. We split into our groups and headed off to our destinations. I opted for the pool. Being a competitive swimmer, I tend to love all aqua activities. When we arrive, we all change in the locker and pair up for the team game we are going to play. We all hop in as (Staff) Jeremy and Layne, explain that we will be guiding our blind teammate to find diving rings scattered around the pool. The game is quick and fun. My teammate and I are especially happy after winning the game, resulting in a drink. After a while of hanging out, the clock hits 2:30. We all head back to the locker room to change back into our dry clothes. We hustle to the van and begin to head back to campus.
When I arrive back to campus, (Dave) my therapist, lets me know we have a session. I walk into his office and settle into my normal place on the couch. We talk openly about how my week has been, and plan for what I would like to discuss in my family session that upcoming friday. Afterwards, we start some brainspotting which is a neurobiological tool to support the clinical healing relationships surrounding trauma. For me, this is a very helpful tool because of my attachment styles and patterns. Our session wraps up and I head upstairs.
When I rejoin the community, everyone regroups in the rec room to discuss what we learned and how much we liked our activities. After our group conversation, the leadership panel boys lead a group/vote on who should be allowed to go to the gym that evening. “Leadership”, is a group of boys who have shown actions and skills that have positively encouraged the community. We talk and debate our points, finally settling on a solid list of well behaved and respectful boys.
We hurry to get ready and by 4:30 we are on our way to the Washington Rec Center. When we get there, we walk up to the gym level and start our individual workouts. At around 5:30, staff let us know it is time to go. Heading back to the van, we chat about our workouts and give tips to others on how to improve and get stronger. Once we are back on campus, we head immediately to the dining room for dinner. As we scarf down our meal of pasta, salad, and garlic bread, we all talk about our day and what we are looking forward to tomorrow. Once the meal is finished we begin our kitchen and house chores. These chores tend to go swiftly. Especially if everyone is doing their job.
At around 7:00, we usually head upstairs to watch some TV or to our rooms to makeup school or start hygiene. As we settle on the couches, we turn on a new episode of “Modern Family”. Some play pool, while others play pingpong. Tonight is pretty chill. At 8:15 staff let us know it is room time. We all head to our rooms and prepare for the next day by tidying up and laying out our clothes. I hop into bed and begin to read my new book. Around 9:45, the night shift pops their head in to let me know its lights out. My night meds have already kicked in and I take the reminder gratefully. As I close my eyes, I think about the week ahead. I think about my family therapy session, and the ski trip coming up. Before I know it, I’m asleep. Resting for the new day to come.
Although there were some weird emotions for me today, I felt comfortable knowing that I had staff and friends around me who understood my situation. Treatment is hard. It’s definitely not all sunshine and rainbows. Personally, I have struggled with many rough days at Ashcreek. From meltdowns, scream-offs, and complete flip-outs, I’ve had my fair share of trials and tribulations. But, what has spoken to me the most, is that my treatment team will stick by my side. In late January, I hit a breaking point. My grandma had just passed away, and I was missing home more than ever. I ran away, threatened to hurt myself, and screamed at the staff. Within the next few days I was placed in a psychiatric hospital. As I was being dropped off, I remember so vividly Kris, the outreach director, looking at me in the eyes and saying “We all love you no matter what, and the door is always open when you are ready.” What I realized through all this was no matter how hard I try to push them away, Ashcreek has proven that they’re going to love me until I can learn to love myself. With this experience, I was reminded how some of my greatest friends and experiences have come from my Ashcreek family.
A quote that I have written on my mirror is “The only way out of whatever you are dealing with, is through”. I look at it every morning reminding myself to be grateful, and reminding myself that this too shall pass. My hope for any student at Ashcreek or anywhere else, is that they can find peace in their process, and realize that success is not final, failure is not fatal, and that it is the courage to continue that counts.
Written by a Student at Ashcreek Academy, February 2021