My Story: Treehouse Is My Training Ground

By Michael, Launch Success participant

I didn’t think I would graduate from high school.

I shied away from the help my Education Specialist, Amy, was offering me until my senior year. I felt that if people saw me around Treehouse, the staff there or others, I would be seen as somebody who’s not normal, like a charity case. I just wanted to be seen as a normal kid.

I wasn’t taking school seriously. I knew it wasn’t something that I wanted to do so I struggled with it. I was in Special Ed classes for math and reading and had told myself that graduation wasn’t going to happen for me. Amy was doing the best she could to help, though. She was going above and beyond — talking to counselors, getting me a tutor and helping me get credits. She believed in me.

Seeing all the work she put in, all the help she gave me, made me realize there are a lot of opportunities that Treehouse provides. It’s actually a really helpful tool. More than that, you’re working with people that genuinely care about you. They are going to hold you accountable and help you achieve your goals. I probably would have been more accepting of Amy’s help if I understood that. I don’t know if a lot of other kids realize it, and I didn’t realize until high school was almost over, that Treehouse is there to help you accomplish your goals. They don’t pick the goals for you.

I remember all the different ones that I’ve set for myself throughout the years. When I was in middle school, about 13 or 14 years old, I remember talking about designing shoes. I’m a huge sneakerhead. I love all sneakers. Then I wanted to be an athlete, so I had to work on my grades so I could actually get on the field and play. I told them what I wanted to do, and they said, “OK, what tools do you need to accomplish that? What can you do to accomplish the short-term goals to get to this big goal that you have set for yourself?”

Being a part of Treehouse really helps you create good habits; it pushes you towards independence. I went from needing to have someone tell me what to do, to implementing that on my own. It taught me a lot about not only myself and what I can do, but what support can really do for you. People don’t really think about it, but we all need support, whether we know it or not.

Growing up, my church was, and still is, a huge part of my life and a huge support. It taught me a lot about life as a whole, as well as how to treat people and conduct myself. I learned to do everything with virtue and to love people who are not easy to love all the time. My walk with God is only as good as how I treat people.

One of the biggest lessons I learned was about loving people no matter how they treat you, no matter how much they look down on you. It doesn’t matter what they do, it matters what you do. They can treat you wrong and they can do you wrong as much as they want to, but if you’re being genuine, there’s no way you could lose that part of you.

I’ve been told that I’m a good role model for others, but I’m just being me. I’m just doing what I normally do. I didn’t realize I was a role model until I saw how I affect others. It’s an amazing thing, but it also can be scary because it just shows people are watching whether you know it or not.

I’ve always been very ambitious, and I really want to be an entrepreneur. My girlfriend and I started a clothing brand together. I want to get into acting. I haven’t been the most consistent, but when I started doing research on it, people around me noticed. I have a friend who was in his first actual movie as an extra. He told me that I inspired him, and he just started doing the first steps. But he actually inspires me. It’s almost like an exchange. Once I see people do good stuff, I want to implement that in my life.

I love to see people around me doing really well. So, to all the youth out there experiencing foster care: instead of feeling ashamed, think of Treehouse as something that’s going to help you in the future. It’s a tool that’s going to help you become more independent, to help sharpen the tools in your shed so you’re not depending on other things as you get older.

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About the Author

Michael is a former Graduation Success participant and current Launch Success participant. He started receiving Treehouse support in middle school. He is passionate about his faith and having a positive influence on those around him.

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