To most people, my life right now probably seems near perfect. After completing two years of an undergraduate psychology degree at the University of Toronto, I decided to transfer to the social work program at Ryerson University and am now on my way to becoming a social worker. I live on my own in a nice area of Toronto and have many friends here, despite moving from BC. I will almost always been seen with a smile on my face and can say that I am truly in a great place in my life right now. Although this is my present situation, I was under much different circumstances during most of my adolescence. Growing up I faced many difficulties and being a free- spirited child I found that I dealt with most of my problems by delving into what I call “escapism.”

For many teens it may seem easier to blur the world around them than to face what is actually happening. I chose to deal with my issues by abusing drugs and living a life that now seems like a different world. Fortunately, in the midst of my path of self-destruction I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to change. I toiled with the idea of going to a rehabilitation centre, but after looking at many of the “institutionalized” places that seem to overwhelm drug treatment facilities, I became deterred. I heard about Venture Academy somewhere along the way, but was too caught up in my haze that I still would not budge from the life I was living. Then one day, I think that I hit my threshold because I had decided that I had had enough and wanted something different. I knew that I needed to take myself out of the current situation I was living in order to get a new perspective. When you paint a picture it is usually wise to take a break every once and a while and then come back to it with a fresh mind. Then, you can make alterations to it because you are able to see it more clearly; this is what Venture Academy did for me. It enabled me to look at my life outside of everything else that was happening with my family, friends and environment. I was given the ability to make changes and build my self-esteem, self- awareness, and overall personal empowerment to become the person I had always wanted to be.

In September of 2005, just a few months out of graduating from high school I moved from Vancouver to Kelowna, BC to embark on a new life journey, one that would hopefully allow me to be me. I moved in with a family, the Potters, who took me in like their own and showed me many valuable life lessons. They also provided me with the much needed stability and support that I was lacking in my own family. To this day I am still in contact with them and cherish the fact that I know such kind people. I feel that the counselling I received was essential in leading the way to figuring out who I truly am. I was soon determined to change and Venture Academy gave me the tools to do this. To me it wasn’t about figuring out what was “wrong” with me, but finding out how I fit into this world and what feels “right”. When I was ready, allowing me the freedom to still be me and interacting with the community was a huge freedom that many treatment programs for teens do not allow. I was able to participate in volunteer activities, interact with the other youth in the program, and also work in a full-time position job, which taught me many essential life skills. I know that self-actualization is a key factor in empowering individuals in Western communities. Venture Academy allowed me to do all of this. After reflecting on my time spent in the program and learning about the many aspects of our societal values, I truly believe that Venture Academy connects adolescents with the community in a way that no other program does. It enables youth to build on their own strengths, allowing them to find their inner power and rise above whatever is happening in their life.

I am not saying that any treatment program is an easy road, but Venture Academy is one that provides many opportunities and allows the youth when they are ready to actually be integrated with the community. I know that if given the right resources, adolescents can feel empowered to take hold of their chances in life. Problems such as drug abuse are not just individual, but also environmental; therefore, dealing with both sides of the coin (the individual and the environment) are absolutely essential. Not only does Venture Academy do all of this, it does so much more. It gives youth the tools to strive in life, to see that the world can be different than the one they are living in. It can give them hopes and dreams. It gave me a way to connect to who I really was and wanted to be. I was standing at a crossroad and had a choice to make. I chose to leave my current situation and go to Venture Academy. Right now, I am on my way to becoming a social worker, something that I know is my path in life and I am so grateful I was given the chance to change.

– MT, Vancouver