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.
The real bonds and relationships that were created during my time at Harbor Schools are something I will never forget. I also believe that it is the relationships that were built that have helped me grow to where I am today. Every child needs to feel loved. Every child needs to be hugged and told they're cared about. Harbor Schools got that!
I was able to go to Newburyport High School, work part time, go to the prom and graduate. Simple things that many teenagers take for granted, but I never did. I knew my very first day at Harbor Schools that it was different. It was a home, a family and a sense of security.
Ten years later, I am still in touch with the Newburyport youth home manager Kris Moss. She has been like a mom to me. She has seen me through thick and thin and has seen me grow into the person I am today. Her dedication, support, encouragement and love have helped me in more ways than words can express.
In the end, I just want to thank all the staff that make Harbor Schools the way it is. The dedication each staff member gives, the unconditional support and love that each individual receives when they walk through Harbor Schools' doors has a lasting impact. Harbor Schools was my home, a family and the first place I felt safe at in many years.
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Kerry Humes of Lynn left Harbor Schools in 2001.