I have witnessed first-hand how Catholic Charities changes the lives of those we serve. I work in our ACES program (Addiction, Counseling, and Education Services). But before that, I received help from Catholic Charities.  I was struggling and would stop by Catholic Charities for a to-go meal in the evening. I often say I didn’t choose this field but that it chose me. 

I have moments I need to remind myself why we do this often stressful work. At those times I stop and think of Thomas. Thomas is a 16-year-old who came to me when he was under house arrest for multiple gun-related offenses. Most 16-year-olds are worried about high school dances, studying for college, or going to Friday night football games. Thomas was thinking about which friend’s funeral he would be attending that week. At 16, he had already lost nine friends to gun-related violence. Despite his traumatic experiences, Thomas managed to comply with all probation requirements and recently had his ankle monitor removed. He also re-enrolled in school and is motivated to not only be in class but to do well.

Thomas has made great progress and avoided all drug use and negative peers since coming to Catholic Charities. I am so proud to see him grow and open up. He has become the leader in our adolescent group and inspires other group members to engage and share. He is articulate and goal-oriented. I have no doubt our program very well may have saved his life.

I know the power of determination from my own experiences. I also know the power of having someone believe in you. I am grateful that my supervisor Debbie saw my inner-strength and abilities, and has nurtured and encouraged me. Every day, I see the power of our program.

Just a few short years ago I never would have imagined I’d be where I am today. But if there is one thing I want to leave you with, it’s that this isn’t about me, it’s about the nearly 1 million people like Thomas we serve every year. Those who have veered off their path and need to be steered back on the road. We can work together to bring light to those struggling with darkness. It's up to us to show them: they can accomplish anything.