NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

January 27, 2012

Harbor Schools changed my life

When I think of my time at Harbor Schools, it's hard not to smile. It was the first place in years I felt safe, the first place I felt truly cared about and I felt I could be myself. For five years before arriving at Harbor Schools, I was bounced around the state's system, in hospitals, teenager shelters, a foster home and short-term centers. I lived basically out of a backpack; I didn't have trust in anyone, I ran from everywhere, had issues with cutting myself, and felt completely alone and angry. Harbor Schools not only gave me a chance, they gave me a sense of family, security and normalcy.

I'll never forget walking into The Haverhill Girls for the first time and seeing pictures of the girls on the wall. The director, Charles Le Buff, ran the program like a home, treated us like a family and allowed us to be "normal" teenage girls. We were expected to work part time or volunteer. We were expected to help in cleaning the house, and at the same time, Buff went above and beyond to plan outings and activities for us. There was a day trip to New York, yearly trip to Virginia Beach and a trip to Montreal. I'll never forget having the opportunity to go white-water rafting or my favorite trip, to a counselor's cabin up in Maine. We went snowshoeing up a mountain, lived in a cabin for two days with no electricity and needed to use an outhouse. That trip was not only fun, it also taught us survival skills.

That's one of the many differences Harbor Schools had compared to many programs. The staff truly cared. They built real relationships with the girls, taught them skills that would help them in the real world, and at the same time, tried to build some normalcy into there lives, which were so abnormal for a typical teenager.

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