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Around Our Town...Family - CY Student Learning to Cope

04/01/2005 - CY Students learning to cope

As a CY Junior High student reads aloud from a journal, her fellow students become gradually silent. A Mountain Dew bottle that was being passed between three kids has been put on the floor and forgotten. The two girls playing footsie in the corner are still and, without prompting, offer a level of attention ordinarily reserved for boys or sales at the Gap.

The student reads a story about a teen in an abusive home, which is short on food and love.

There are equal and opposite feelings in the room. On one hand, the crowd sits in awe of the talent and creative writing ability of the student, who has yet to hit a 16th birthday. At the same time there is a fear that the story is more biographical than creative.

Another student talks about cutting their own body to take away the feelings of guilt from a night of watching friends commit a crime and doing nothing about it. An arm's worth of scars support the claim.

Pretty heavy subject matter for kids just entering their teen years.

Leading this group are CY Junior High Social Worker Carmen Fairservis, Self Help Center Violence Prevention Coordinator Vic Orr and Jim Johnson of Mercer House. The three facilitate a group at CY Junior High that teaches coping skills for the realities that face these youngsters at school, as well as home.

The group meets each Friday and goes wherever the kids take it.

"It (the group) is really driven by the kids themselves," Orr said. "We thought, lets get them together, since we can't change their parents, lets give them the tools to at least cope with it (home life)."

Fairservis said she noticed a lot of the kids going through the same problems and, in December, contacted Orr and Johnson to ask if they would mind facilitating a group for the kids. Fairservis points out she doesn't work specifically with children or groups that come from homes experiencing alcohol or drug abuse, however, she says talk of abuse is prominent in this particular group. That is significant considering the kids in the group decide where the conversation will go.

"For many of the kids I work with, if they didn't have to deal with substance abuse issues, a lot of these problems wouldn't be happening," Fairservis said. "These kids haven't opened up or talked about their issues. To them, these issues are normal."

On this day, the kids seem to want to discuss the effect alcohol and drugs are having on their lives.

"I remember (him/her) being drunk all the time," a student says about a parent. "When (he/she) got back, he didn't drink as much but he started meth."

Another child mentions once they step into the house after school, there are only five hours between the time they got home and when they went to bed. Five hours to avoid a blowup with a caretaker.

"Sometimes parents make mistakes too," Fairservis offered. "It doesn't mean they are bad people or that we can't have a healthy relationship with them."

Orr, himself a 1983 grad of NCHS, said that it is important for this group to realize they are not the only kids going through a lot of these problems. Orr said he also facilitates similar groups at Dean Morgan and Centenial Junior Highs, but says this one seems to get the most honest.

Fairservis said she hopes Johnson and Orr would be willing to continue the program through the summer months - if that is what the students want.

"They are learning to trust their own emotions as well as others," she said. "They are learning to open up their hearts to learn about their heartaches and come up with solutions."

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