In 2003 I left the comforts of home on the East Coast and ventured west to Utah. Once there, I heard a summer camp for young kids was looking for counselors and I needed a job. These were good kids in need of a structured summer in order to stay out of trouble. The camp was called Sunshine Solutions and was being sponsored by West Ridge Academy. It didn’t take long working with these kids that I developed a passion for helping others and in making a difference.
As the summer camp was coming to an end, I turned to West Ridge to further my career and started living in one of the residential homes. I became more involved in their lives, as a big brother would, and I was given more supervisory responsibilities. A year later I married my wife and together we became the model parents for this residential home. Quickly we learned that providing for and being responsible for 14 kids was no easy task. But we loved what we did and we know we helped many young men in those 2 years.
In order to fully develop our passion in working with youth, we decided to leave West Ridge for St. George to continue my undergraduate work. A few years later I needed to transfer to a larger university in order to continue my education – so back to Salt Lake City where I enrolled at the University of Utah. But I needed to work in order to pay for tuition and books. One day while searching, I was prompted to give West Ridge a call to see of any available openings. Relieved, they needed some part-time help as well as being excited that I was looking. I began working a few days a week in the school and picked up shifts in the homes and on weekends as often as I could. Everything was falling in place for me and I felt so blessed.
I am currently a part of the Aftercare team which continues to monitor the youth’s progress once they have left the residential portion of the program. Now I truly felt that my education in Social Work was aligned with my career goals. I love going into their own homes and providing support and counseling for their families. I now have a closer relationship with them and with the clinical team. This position has helped me grow as an individual and has given me a greater insight and appreciation of the entire staff and how everyone plays an integral part in the success of each young man or woman. I look forward to the future as I feel like a valued team member who will work hard and with full effort in reaching out to these youth as they pursue their own journeys in life. Now that I am getting closer in reaching my educational goals and with the valuable experiences learned while working here, I only hope in some small way, I will continue to be a positive influence for your precious sons and daughters.