Jacob is unlike any ordinary youth, and it was his uniqueness that made it difficult to fit into the public school system. The resulting inner turmoil caused him to lash out and make some poor choices and soon after Jacob came to Marymound School from the Seven Oaks School Division.
After completing grades 7 and 8 at Marymound School, Jacob’s Mom Suzana told the Marymound School Principal that integrating her son into high school within the public system would not fare well and she wanted to explore another avenue for her son. Fortunately, Marymound had created a unique new school for students to graduate high school. The high school is called Pathways.
Pathways caters to students’ individual behavioural issues and learning styles with a flexible educational environment both inside and outside the classroom. “I prefer this school to public school or even Marymound School because you get more flexibility and more outings with more freedom,” says Jacob.
“When I first started here I chose a room to be by myself with my head down on a desk. I was used to being the outcast and hanging out alone,” says Jacob. But over time, with other students’ encouragement he didn’t feel so different and started to engage. Now, Jacob has progressed socially with other students and teachers. He tells jokes, listens tentatively, and with a little prompting will curb his tendency to be negative. Jacob is becoming adept at regularly getting himself back into a positive frame of mind without any guidance.
He loves school outings and Jacob is always one of the first to sign up. For Tuesday and Thursdays outings, he goes to the nearby YMCA that helps him attain a Phys Ed credit. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the outings may vary. Some are Phys Ed related while others are visits to art galleries and museums to achieve social studies credits. These outings are also a way for Jacob to gain knowledge of different information.
Not all outings are credit-based. Some of Jacob’s favourite outings include laser tag, and going to The Forks to walk around and have a cup of coffee with an instructor. “These outings are geared to Jacob learning what is appropriate public behaviour to better help him socialize successfully,” says Jean McLeod, Pathways Teacher/Program Coordinator.
Jacob also likes lunch time at the school as students have the chance to volunteer to choose what they want to make and then go shopping with an instructor for the ingredients. Pizzas, Kraft Dinner, and Sloppy Joe’s are his favourites when it is his turn to make lunch. “A student’s participation in the lunch program goes to a foods credit,” adds McLeod.
Academically, Jacob prefers math but really enjoys planning trips, including Egypt and Italy for a social studies credit. He considered all of the necessary factors that are a part of travel planning such as costs, sightseeing planning, where to stay, and the best times to go.
Jacob is officially in grade 10 but working on credits for a variety of grade levels with a goal of graduating high school by the time he is 21 based on Manitoba Curriculum. “Their home division grants diplomas, so when he meets all the requirements and attains his 30 credits, Seven Oaks School Division will issue a diploma for him,” says McLeod.
Because Jacob is one of the more successful students, he has a work placement at Sscope Inc., an agency that has a thrift shop that provides work experience for willing students at Pathways. “I mop floors, clean desks and organize stuff,” says Jacob. He is doing so well he is the only student that now goes twice a week to work.
After graduating, Jacob would like to work at a place like Canad Inns and do some property maintenance or custodial services to utilize the experience he picked up at Sscope. To help make this a reality, the next school year may have an outing that consists of visiting a property manager and ‘doing the rounds’ and talking with maintenance staff to gain even more valuable learning experience.
Jacob’s mother is very grateful to Pathways and supports it 100 per cent as she is witness to the amazing changes in her son which have transferred to his home life. “He is a much happier boy at home and I’m so pleased he is finding his own path,” says Suzana.
He has near perfect attendance, and for the first time, looks forward to being in school. “It used to be I hated getting up to go to school wondering what the kids were going to do to me today,” says Jacob. “Now I can’t wait to go and see what type of outing we are going to have and what I might learn!”
In 2017, concerned parents Chad and Lana Taylor spoke with the principal of Marymound about his son Ashtyn who was struggling with behavioural and learning issues in the public school system due to his autism. They were instructed to follow the process in place within the school division and subsequently their son was placed at Marymound School for grade 7. Ashtyn’s start at Marymound was a struggle, but he soon reset in his new school environment.
He started to get comfortable with Steve, the Marymound teacher that drove him to and from school daily, and who still supports him to this day. Ashtyn now considers him “my third Grandpa.”
In addition to Steve’s support, what would ultimately be Ashtyn’s saving grace was his passion for hockey.
Regular conversations with Ashtyn’s Dad led to Marymound learning that Chad worked at Canlan Ice Sports Winnipeg and that he could get Marymound School some free ice time at the rink.
“We immediately started canvassing to get some needed equipment, skates, sticks and pucks says current Marymound Principal Rhett Turner. “Further conversations with Chad gained us access to the ice for an hour in the morning every two weeks, enabling us to develop our ‘Learn to Skate’ program.”
Ashtyn was in his comfort zone on the rink as he showed up in his full goaltender gear and used the time to connect with other kids and bond with staff. He became somewhat of a leader on the ice. This parlayed back into the classroom setting as he showed confidence and started to develop relationships with other students. So much so, nearing the end of grade 8, discussions were held about Ashtyn returning to the public school system.
“It’s hard to believe that we were hesitant at first to place Ashtyn in Marymound School. It’s now the best decision we ever made as the staff were so patient and took the time to understand our son’s needs,” say Taylor. “Ashtyn used to be so closed off hiding behind his hoody but now he’s learning to control his emotions and express himself to help form healthy relationships.”
Marymound contacted St. Norbert School in 2019 for Ashtyn to begin high school in grade 9. They also mentioned that hockey was essential for his success and trying out for the high school hockey team would be of great benefit to him. Ashtyn made the team which was no easy feat, as there were players on the team years older than him. He talked proudly to his teammates about Marymound and the hockey and skating programs and how the teachers came out to join him and the other students to skate.
“Prior to Marymound, there was no common ground established for Ashtyn to form relationships. He has since changed his whole mood and personality, and we had no issues with him at all in his last year with us,” says Principal Turner. “St. Norbert School followed our recommendations and subsequently did a great job of setting him up for success by offering some beneficial supports. His older teammates would even rally around him off the ice if they sensed he was in an awkward social situation and help him out.”
And as a testament of their dedication to their students, Marymound School staff stay connected to Ashtyn by watching him play on the Fort Richmond hockey team, much to his delight.
Carlene Flett lived in Lac du Bonnet until she was three-years-old, when her parents separated. Her Mom then moved to Winnipeg with Carlene and her three siblings. Her parents faced some difficult times and Carlene was placed in the foster care system at the age of four. This was when she started a roller-coaster journey that ended up including 12 foster homes.
At 13, she took up boxing at the Pan Am Boxing Club. Carlene excelled at sports, playing volleyball and competing in the provincial championships in track and field. “I was on the grade 8 divisional team when I was only in grade 6,” she recalls with pride. “But things changed in high school, as life happens, as they say.”
When Carlene was 15, she finally settled in with a loving foster family who she now considers her family. “My foster Mom has been a huge support for me by helping to raise my daughter and also guiding me to make the right decisions.”
Carlene went to numerous schools due to many foster family moves, and finished high school despite being pregnant. “I was still trying to go for it in my life, so I went back to school two months after giving birth. I am still one credit short and determined to get my PreCalculus, so I go to night school two days a week.”
Carlene has stayed in touch with a social worker who was very supportive and helped her through some difficult times. “I don’t know how she did it; she was someone I trusted and she took advantage of the time I wanted to spend with her by taking me to workshops when I was just eight-years-old. She later helped me get my first real job, supervising a youth co-op.”
Carlene entered the Marymound Independent Options Program at 17 to help ease the transition to adulthood and independent living. “I can honestly say I transitioned out of care into my own life independently very well, by still learning, still living.”
Now 21, Carlene lives in her own apartment while working full-time in the Marymound Student Work Experience Education Program (SWEEP) since July 2018. Her supervisors have nothing but great things to say about her reliability, work ethic and positive attitude. She has worked the hotdog cart, assisted in the kitchen, helped housekeeping and the cultural program, while also doing yard work.
Carlene plans to save money to enroll in university and study neuroscience. “I want to learn more about the brain and study its behaviour and development, and also study mental illness to try and create more connections and better solutions that don’t have to resort to medication,” says Carlene. “Meds should be more of a support than something you should depend on.”
But for now, she is focused on creating a solid foundation. “I’m trying to make sure my baby’s life isn’t similar to mine by making sure she has stability. I can’t imagine my daughter having to go through everything that I had to at the same age. To this day I don’t know how I managed to get through to this point in my life.”
Carlene is in a good place and plans to stay there. “I know what it’s like to be in a bad situation, and I’d rather do things to help myself rather than to make that situation worse. To me that’s just common sense.”
If Caitlin were to be described in one word, it would be resilient. Caitlin is one of the fortunate youth to overcome numerous challenges she endured early in life to become a compassionate, optimistic and independent spirit. Now almost 21, she is a young woman with a bright future awaiting her. She has been in the Marymound Independent Options Program (IOP) since she was 18 and considers Marymound to be her family.
A dark cloud loomed over Caitlin at birth. At 10-months-old she became an official ward and was placed into foster care. Too young to realize, she assumed her foster parents were her birth parents, so when Caitlin was removed from their care at age six due to family addiction problems, it had a profound effect. “When they [Child and Family Services] took me away from my [foster] parents, it traumatized me for a very long time,” says Caitlin.
A ray of hope shined on Caitlin as she was soon placed into another foster home in the north end of Winnipeg. “I was taken away, but put into the best possible situation with Lisa and Chris who I consider my parents today,” says Caitlin.
An added bonus of being parented by Lisa and Chris was that Caitlin was reunited with her older biological sister who suffers from severe autism and has the mental capacity of a seven-year-old. “Lisa and Chris were great, as I was a confused six-year-old and they quickly understood my fears and made me feel right at home.” Caitlin was thrilled to be with her sister who she never got to live with previously, and gave of herself endlessly. “My sister had it far worse than me in the system. She is my world. Anything she needs, I will do for her.” Caitlin did this while addressing her own mental health issues.
“For the next six years, it was the best time as not too much happened,” says Caitlin. She went to elementary school every day with her sister and parents (who were teachers). As a child with ADHD, Caitlin encountered challenges at school so her foster Dad exposed Caitlin to a variety of sports at which she excelled, as well as many other music and dance classes to help exhaust her excess energy. It wasn’t until after many trying times that her parents realized she also suffered from extreme anxiety at age 11.
When Caitlin turned 13, the darkness returned as her foster parents divorced and she had to leave the family, including her sister. This incredible trauma caused Caitlin to become suicidal when she was 15. As a result, she had a two-week stay in Marymound’s Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) and managed to recover quickly. She then had brief stints in various group homes, a hotel, and finally a mentored living home for a year and half. “This is where you go before entering the Independent Living Options Program,” Caitlin explains.
After a year and a half of hard work and dedication, Caitlin built up the requirements to enter Marymound’s Independent Options Program and got her very own first apartment where she has thrived ever since. Caitlin is independent, manages her home, personal life and financial budget without the need for support.
She also entered the Marymound Student Work Experience Education Program (SWEEP) and excelled working the hotdog cart. “Just because you are born in a bad situation, doesn’t mean you have to be that way. I know I am able to succeed and do it on my own. I know I have supports. Marymound made me realize my potential and the times when I wanted to give up, if it wasn’t for everyone, I would have so I am very thankful. They made me realize it’s OK to feel weak and reach out for help.”
Marymound is like family to Caitlin. She has gone to hockey games with staff, met two of her best friends in the IOP program, and works tirelessly in the Marymound kitchen. “I had a recent anxiety attack at a Marymound function and six different staff came to my aid to comfort me. My IOP support worker Michele was my rock and the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The staff at Marymound understand me. That’s family.”
The clouds have parted and the sun is shining on Caitlin’s future. She wants to be a baker. Having recently graduated high school as a mature student, she is going back to school to complete her grade 10 science, as it is compulsory to get into baking school. She is still in touch with her foster parents and is thinking of her future for the first time. “Now I see myself having a job, growing up with my friends, having a house and being successful. I can see myself. I have a future, and it’s great.”
Jenea Moise was originally from the Indigenous Community of Lac Brochet in Northern Manitoba. She became a permanent ward when her biological mother died when Jenea was 3 years of age, and her father could not overcome addiction issues which caused great upheaval and harm in their home. The family was an unfortunate result of the residential school system and the ensuing intergenerational trauma with no supportive resources available in their community.
In 2002 at the age of 4, Jenea came into care and soon was placed into a foster home with her two sisters in Thompson, Manitoba. The foster parents switched their license to Marymound’s Treatment Foster Care (TFC) in 2007 and Jenea continues to live with them for the past 16 years.
Despite having to overcome being a child in care, suffering through grief and depression, as well as detachment issues, Jenea graduated high school in 2015. She has continued to advance and is now in her second year at the University College of the North (UCN) completing her Early Childhood Education 2, and has worked part time since high school at a restaurant.
“I’m so appreciative to find a family that is so accepting that offers me mental stability, education and socialization opportunities, trust and even generational changes. I hope other children find a family and become as fortunate as me.”
On her path to independence, Jenea recently moved into her own apartment and continues to succeed with the full support of her foster family, birth sisters, and TFC. It is a credit to her perseverance and resilience that Jenea has found her way by taking advantage of all opportunities to build a bright and prosperous future.
Reece became a permanent ward in 2008, and lived with his grandmother for many years before joining the Marymound Independent Options Program (IOP) in March 2017. He graduated from high school three months later. Reece is one of three triplets and is very close to his two sisters also in IOP.
Early in the program, he struggled with anxiety and depression to the point where he couldn’t make eye contact or engage in conversation. In group settings he would retreat physically by pulling his sweatshirt hood over his face and hide. In less than two years, he no longer has to use his sisters as a crutch and can engage socially on his own. Reece has also learned to see past his parents substance abuse and is rebuilding a relationship with them as an adult.
Reece has come a long way, and works part-time in the Marymound kitchen through the Student Work Experience Education Program (SWEEP). “Marymound offers many resources for youth to access that support us as we work towards our goals.” He is exploring an opportunity at a post-secondary institution for the culinary arts and hopes one day to own a restaurant.
Reece attends therapy biweekly and is on medication to address his anxiety and depression. His biggest change is his gender identity. He came to the program as a female (Renee) and since coming out as male (Reece), is much happier and content with his identity. He is starting to undergo the physical process of transitioning through Klinic while trying to secure funding to legally change his name and gender marker at Rainbow Resource.
Reece has, and is overcoming major challenges in his life but maintains being a compassionate person as shown by his love for animals and fostering of high-needs cats, as well as volunteering at the Humane Society once a week.
Ray was placed into care as a toddler, along with his older sister because they were living in an unsafe home. Unfortunately, his first foster home was not much better, and after a short-term living arrangement with his grandmother, Ray was placed into the Marymound Treatment Foster Care program when he was three-years-old. He faced many challenges through his first family and after nearly 10 years, his trust and anxiety issues still remained. It wasn’t until his third family that Ray would begin to realize his full potential.
Through a culturally-appropriate and nurturing family, he began to trust again and feel safe to speak his mind and become optimistic about his future. Initially, Ray was treated as if he had ADHD related challenges, but with his third family, demonstrated that he functioned above his peers and wanted to accomplish many goals.
Ray feels very fortunate to have his current foster parents. “They motivated me to help me reach my potential, while accepting me for who I am,” says Ray. His foster parents always reassured him that he is part of the family– now and in the future.
While in high school, Ray volunteered at the YMCA and Manitoba Children’s Museum. He graduated with above average grades, and went on to complete an electrical trades program and obtain a Level 1 Apprentice designation.
But Ray’s learning didn’t end there. He recently began a journey to learn about his cultural heritage (something he had no interest in a few years ago) and this led him to alter his path to explore his true passion: helping his community. Poverty issues, politics, working with children in care, and community development consumed him.
He volunteered with the West Broadway Neighbourhood Association in July 2017, helping with community gardens while learning and growing from the experiences of other workers. The following month, he began volunteering for a political party citing their views of helping children in care as reasons for his support.
Ray entered the University of Winnipeg this September and remains motivated to pursue his passions. He also has a great capacity for learning and discussing policy responses to social issues, particularly those impacting children in care and marginalized young people. Ray has read books on sociology and other related fields to help him get a better understanding of the field in advance of his studies.
When not volunteering, Ray has always had a part-time job. He currently works at a major grocery store where he received a modest promotion. He has shown great resilience to overcome the obstacles of his early childhood neglect through learning to work hard and rely on his sister and foster parents for support.
Ray is mature beyond his years and takes a great interest in discussing people, society, his experience in care, and how he thinks the world could be improved. He is very interested in learning new ideas and has a ‘dream board’ of hope to help clarify what he wants in the future.
He is very introspective and reflects on his difficult past experiences and traumas, trying not to be angry because he wants to ‘move past it’ while at other times, he wants help to work through his challenges.
The goal of Marymound’s Treatment Foster Care is not making placements, but rather, it’s about helping children like Ray find nurturing, ‘forever’ families and a sense of belonging.
Jessica is the oldest of three siblings. When she was born, her mother was too young and ill-prepared to handle the responsibility of raising children in a healthy environment. Because of that, Jessica and her brother and sister were placed in their first foster home when she was five-years-old.
Her first foster mom enrolled Jessica in Girl Guides which ultimately had a strong influence on her. “Being a girl guide member and then a leader for a few years was important to me because we need to as a society empower girls and young women to go after what they want, and be whatever they want to be,” says Jessica. “It is where I met a friend who is my best friend today. She encouraged me to keep returning to Girl Guides each year. We enjoyed awesome camping trips and had the time of our lives.” Her enthusiasm for the outdoors continues today.
Jessica’s life changed again during elementary school when she was placed into a culturally-appropriate Marymound Treatment Foster Care (TFC) home that fortunately included her siblings. The trauma from early childhood had created emotional issues that required skilled foster parents and specialized care. The new stability and guidance from the TFC program helped Jessica become the top student of her middle school graduating class. She later graduated from high school with a B average.
Initially, when Jessica and her siblings entered foster care, there was no contact with their birth Mother. But eventually through Marymound Treatment Foster Care, visits were scheduled through their second foster family. The experience led to Jessica seeing her mother from a new perspective and noticing the positive changes she was making in her life. This helped to set the groundwork for a future healthy relationship.
Jessica’s Marymound family included two loving parents with four children of their own. She lived with them for 11 years. This positive family environment enabled her and her siblings to be exposed to new experiences that included playing musical instruments and going on school trips. She also learned to drive, and was able to enjoy numerous other opportunities. Her foster parents also influenced Jessica’s understanding of the significance of education. “To me, education is important because people need to learn so that they can become productive members of society in one way or another, or in ways that work for them,” says Jessica.
Jessica is thankful for her Marymound family who helped raise her through all the good and difficult times until she was 21. Jessica currently lives with her birth mother. “It is fantastic that I am back with her and I’m very glad she fought so hard for us to have a relationship while we were in foster care so that it wasn’t a weird thing to live with her after I aged out,” she beams. “I also live with my brother at my Mom’s house but my sister recently moved out. I know that no matter what happens between us that my siblings will always be there for me, as I will be for them.”
Jessica is currently working and is hoping for a permanent position as an Educational Assistant in the Winnipeg School Division. She also has plans to foster, after she has children of her own. “I think people will see me wanting to be a foster parent kind of odd, but I see it as a way to give back for all the years I was in care. In total, I was in care for 14 years and I have said thank you for different things, but I think this is a great way to give back in a good way.”
Marymound offers programs and services that help referred children and youth of all ages. The Independent Options Program (IOP) at Marymound prepares youth from within Marymound and from elsewhere in the child welfare system for their transition to adulthood and living independently. Chevie Delaronde joined IOP at age 18.
Chevie was resilient from a very young age. Coming from a turbulent upbringing in a very small town north of Winnipeg, she focused on many activities to help deal with the challenges she faced. Chevie learned to play the guitar, fiddle and square dance. She also loved the outdoors and had an interest in building things because she was surrounded by family members adept at carpentry.
After finishing elementary school, she struggled in high school in nearby Swan River as she was still affected by the physical and emotional issues from home that caused her to get into trouble.
She decided a change had to be made so she spoke with a social worker, “I can’t take it anymore and I don’t want to live at home.” She was soon placed in care and ended up living in a Group Home for three years (even though the maximum time was to be six months). Unfortunately, her troubles continued at the Group Home. “I got into the wrong crowd and eventually got kicked out of high School in grade 10 and was told not to come back.”
“I decided to come to the city because I wanted to change my life,” says Chevie. Her social worker found her a foster home in Winnipeg, but since her move came in the middle of a school year, she had to wait until the following year to enroll. She realized that schooling was her number one option and focused on her studies. Thinking back, some of Chevie’s motivation came from an RCMP officer she knew. He stressed the importance of attaining an education and how it enables you to pursue many opportunities. Chevie’s foster mom was also a stickler for kids getting their homework done that also helped to keep her focused.
Chevie’s foster mom also wanted to find her the right program to better prepare her for adulthood. So, at the age of 18, and with the help of her social worker, Chevie entered the Independent Options Program (IOP) at Marymound. The IOP transition program taught her to budget, prepare meals, grocery shop, and provided her with the necessary life skills to eventually succeed on her own. Chevie also gained work experience through the Marymound Student Work Experience Education program (SWEEP) by helping in the Marymound kitchen. This summer, she worked regularly with SWEEP on landscaping the Marymound campus earning her first regular paycheque!
Chevie has been thriving in her own apartment with the assistance of IOP for the last two years. While living independently she has been a model tenant, and studied diligently to proudly graduate high school.
Now 20, Chevie realizes she wants more. While discussing with support workers her potential post-secondary options in the Trades, carpentry came to mind. “I like building things, I enjoy being outside so I thought I’d give that a try,” says Chevie. “I would be the first family member to be a certified carpenter!”
Chevie recently completed the application form for the Carpentry Program at the Manitoba Institute of Trade and Technology and was accepted. She used her own savings to pay for her seat deposit.
By being in a Marymound Program, she was eligible for a Marymound Bursary. Chevie applied and based on many positive testimonials (in addition to her own perseverance), she received enough funds to cover the cost of the carpentry program. “I thought maybe if got half the money, I’d be happy. This is more than I expected, I am so grateful to Marymound for helping me build my future.”
Because of her resilience and perseverance along with Marymound’s Independent Options Program, and Bursary, Chevie has an opportunity to realize her full potential.
Krystyne Hastings, 22, is a former Marymound youth in care placed in the Marygrove Group Home at age 9 due to a neglectful and abusive home. Prior to coming to Marymound, she was bounced around from various foster homes before settling at Marygrove, a group home for girls ages 9 to 13.
After aging out of the group home she was placed in a foster home with her sister, but then spent the next two years moving from foster home to foster home. At 14, Krystyne moved back home with her Mom and subsequently gave birth to her first child at 15. After becoming a mother, Krystyne soon realized that home was not the home she needed as she was left on her own by her mother. Krystyne and her baby were soon placed in care with a family friend until the age of 17 when she moved out on her own.
Krystyne currently lives in a house with her boyfriend and now has three children, aged 9 months, 3, and 7. In addition to enjoying motherhood, she has been busy with her art– something that has always been important to her because it provides a positive focus to counteract any negativity in her life. Krystyne recently emailed Marymound staff and proudly announced that she was chosen as one of Winnipeg’s RAW Artists. Her art will be showcased on April 21 at 441 Main Street and she would love the support, and be very happy to see everyone. She decided it also was important to finish the remaining six months of her grade 12 by attaining her GED while hoping to continue her education at Urban Circle, focusing on Social Work or Health Care Aid options.
Krystyne’s life has been unstable and chaotic, but through it all she remembers her four-year stay at Marygrove that set the foundation for who she is today. In August 2014 she said the following on Marygrove’s Facebook page:
“The things I have learned from Marymound I have carried on into my kids. I am going to try my best so they can have their own special memories and a great childhood. Growing up at Marymound’s Marygrove Group Home as a kid, I thought I was bad with too many rules about this and that, but in the end it was everything a kid could ask for and more.
What sucks about it is that we don’t realize it until we are older how good you have things and how the staff truly care about you. I just want to say thank you Marygrove staff who worked with me. You all had an effect on me in so many different ways. I wish there were a few staff I could find to let them know how good I’m doing. I have my own house with two kids. I have a homecare job. I’m on my own. It’s tough but worth it in the end. Updated January 2018: Along with parenting her children, Krystyne is now working full-time at Marymound with the Cultural program and is committed to furthering her education to eventually become a nurse.
My struggle to get where I am now made me realize how easy I had it at Marygrove. If there was anything I could say to other kids who take on living there is “take your time in growing up. Appreciate what you have there, some kids have nothing and would love to be at Marygrove. I miss Marygrove and I’m proud to say that this was once my home. Thank you Marygrove staff.” Love always, Krystyne Hastings.
Ryan has completed gender reassignment and has been living as a man for 11 years in Vancouver. Ryan will be respected by addressing him only by his present name and by the use of male pronouns. This is his story.
Ryan entered Marymond in 1996 about to turn 17. He had previously bounced around from different group homes, hospitals and the former Seven Oaks Centre for Youth.
He had a troubling past, coming from a chaotic, abusive and transient family upbringing. It led to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that caused very low self-esteem and an inability to express his feelings. To compound his anxiety was his awareness of feeling like a man in a woman’s body.
Fortunately for Ryan, he felt the love and support from the Marymound staff when he arrived, as they were the first adults he had ever felt safe being around. “They gave me an opportunity to embrace who I truly was, and am,” recalls Ryan. “They got me my first bottle of men’s cologne, and took me to get short haircuts while also understanding my need to shop in the men’s section.”
Although it was a brief window into his life for the 10 months he was at Marymound, Ryan says the staff gave him the opportunity to be a kid because he didn’t have to take care of himself for a little while. “It was bizarre having adults genuinely taking care of me and expecting nothing in return. It gave me a sense of autonomy and the skills I needed to move forward,” says Ryan. He recalls many fond memories, including: playing cards, the tolerating of his unique sense of humour, going to camp, movies, getting proper dental care, and cooking and baking with staff.
After aging out of the system in 1997, it was a frightening and difficult time for Ryan. “Living alone in my apartment, I called a Marymound caregiver every night and sometimes would talk to them until morning. It really helped, as it showed me I was worth unconditional love. One staff member also provided a lot of mentorship to me as a queer youth by connecting me to some great supports in the community,” recalls Ryan.
Today Ryan works in the concurrent disorders field for an organization that helps drug users to recover and operates under a harm reduction, housing-first framework. He previously worked with street youth and is now attending school with hopes of becoming a Primary Care Paramedic. Ryan also keeps very busy as a musician, photographer and freelance writer.
Ryan’s family consists of friends and former co-workers. He’s been sober since 2009 and has developed a solid relationship with himself which helped cultivate some fulfilling relationships over the years. He is very open to, and is looking forward to additional positive relationships throughout his life.
Ryan currently maintains relationships with many present and former Marymound staff. “To this day, when reconnecting with them, they continue to love me, mentor me and unconditionally accept me. In my heart, they are who I consider to be my parents,” says Ryan.
“What doesn’t break you only makes you stronger” is an appropriate theme that represents Paige’s life experience.
At 12, Paige experienced a very traumatic event and acted out, sending her life on a downward spiral.
“I felt no one understood me or was there for me, and I didn’t want to talk about things or be around people,” recalls Paige. “I started running away from home to be with my friends and was completely disrespectful to my parents.”
Her father called social services and had Paige placed in a Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) for seven days. From there she went to a co-ed youth shelter in the North End where she continued to run away for weeks at a time and also started taking a variety of drugs, including ecstasy. “It was a horrible, horrible time,” says Paige.
Near the age of 14, she was placed in a Marymound group home. She started to improve but had a setback and lashed out by running away several times and continued her drug usage.
Paige was sent back home to her father by the Manitoba Youth Centre after being charged with uttering threats, and lived with him until she was 15. Her downward spiral continued as she then began to experiment with heavier drugs. “It was a really a bad time for me, as I was in and out of the youth centre until I was about 15 and a half,” Paige remembers.
While under the heavy influence of drugs, she and a friend committed a robbery and Paige was sent back to the Youth Centre for the last time. She was given the ultimatum of either serving her 18 months probation there or to accept house arrest with the probation. She reluctantly selected the house arrest option with probation and was placed in Marymound’s Alternatives secured living unit.
After getting over the initial shock of being in the unit, Paige realized she wanted to get better. She started to closely follow the program and open up to staff. “I ended up just loving the people that worked at Alternatives as they cared so much about my total well-being and helped get me back into the community,” says Paige. “They listened to me, and heard me when I was having so many issues.”
Attending Marymound School since she was 12, Paige fondly recalls the Marymound School staff. “They were amazing in helping me overcome obstacles that enabled me to focus and win numerous school awards,” Paige says. “The school staff, along with the clinicians and unit workers, gave credit to my father for staying by my side and working with them through it all. My Dad was a huge support for me, if he wasn’t around I doubt they would have been able to help me the way I needed.”
In May of 2013 Paige left Marymound, feeling whole again. She moved back home to her loving father and has been there ever since. This past year, after previous seasonal part-time jobs in retail and the food industry, Paige found a job at a local family restaurant that she loves. She is head hostess. ”It’s a small restaurant, and I have family working there – four cousins and my auntie. This is where I’m going to stay for quite a while,” she says proudly.
Now 18, Paige is planning on living at home while she attains her GED and then plans to attend university to get her psychology degree. “I want to help others the way Marymound helped me,” says Paige. “I couldn’t image doing anything else because my life was turned completely around by the help of everyone here. And even though I can’t stand what happened to me, I wouldn’t change anything because I wouldn’t be me.”
Vicki is a young adult who wanted to tell her story about her experiences with Marymound. This is her story.
At the age of two, Vicki was placed in the care of Pam who became her mom in every sense of the word.
As a preschooler, Vicki was labelled a problem child. “I was perceived as arrogant and rude,” remembers Vicki. “Teachers weren’t quite sure what to do with me. In kindergarten, I could already read and write and wondered out loud why others couldn’t.” As it turned out, she had Asperger Syndrome (AS), but was not diagnosed until several years later.
When Vicki was nine years old, Pam joined Marymound’s Treatment Foster Care program and it would become a turning point in her life. “Many kids get bounced around from home to home, but I was lucky to find one family that offered stability,” says Vicki.
She attended public school in Dugald but life got more difficult as she grew older. Vicki was bullied because of her undiagnosed AS that caused an inability to filter her comments. Medication didn’t help her and only made things worse as the side effects created severe depression. “It was a dark time for me as I became very self-destructive from ages 11 to 13,” recalls Vicki.
Pam recognized there was more to the problem. “She was not a bad kid. There had to be a reason for her behaviour.” After conducting her own exhaustive research and attending a seminar on AS, she thought that Asperger Syndrome might be a possibility. Soon after that, Vicki was diagnosed with AS.
Vicki recollects that it was due to Pam’s access to resources and training provided by Marymound that “turned my life around.” Once diagnosed and no longer on medication, Vicki was able to learn to consciously filter her thoughts and better communicate. She played on the high school rugby team and excelled academically. Vicki accelerated her studies and graduated in grade 11, missing the honour role by .6 percent. “I almost cried” says Vicki.
Her first job was with the Marymound Student Education Employment Program (SWEEP). “It was great working at Marymound because the people were all very friendly and supportive,” Vicki says.
She attended College Louis Riel in 2014 and completed an Early Childhood Educator course along with winning the Citizenship Award. Vicki transferred her credits to Red River College and loved her work practicum at St. Amant Centre where she worked with special needs kids.
Vicki currently lives by herself in a downtown apartment. And although good with money, Pam likes to show her how to be a savvy grocery shopper. Pam, as supportive as any mom could be, often tells her, “I don’t care what you do, as long as you are happy.”
Being smart, stubborn and strong-willed, Vicki has survived. She has become a caring, independent, and mature young woman striving to achieve her ultimate potential.
After a failed foster placement in rural Manitoba, ‘Ashley’ was brought to the city and became a frequent runaway. At the age of 15, she lived in a downtown hotel, and then a hostile shelter where she was constantly threatened and later taken advantage of and exploited.
She came to Marymound at age 16 and credits the organization for helping to turn her life around. The individual guidance and compassionate care of the Rosehall Group Home staff gave Ashley the stability desperately missing in her life. After two years of thriving from managed care, she became very self-sufficient and responsible by making her own appointments, calling to refill prescriptions, and using a weekly bus pass to attend high school regularly. After school, Ashley would return to her group home and attend transition planning through her Independent Options case worker. Exhibiting such self-sufficient and mature behaviour led to Ashley earning a later curfew on weekends, while also working at a hair salon on Saturdays.
Ashley is now living on her own through the Independent Options Program and is excited about a new job at a fast-food restaurant. She also realizes the need for further education and wants to enroll in a two-year child and youth care program at Red River College. After that she wants to attain a social work degree to help others avoid going through what she has finally overcome.
Ashley recently reconciled with her parents and is currently in high school, scheduled to graduate in June 2015.
‘Ashley’ is a pseudonym to protect her privacy.
As a high needs child, ‘Jeremy’ was placed in an emergency shelter and later in two foster homes. Early life trauma exacerbated his extreme and unpredictable behaviour as Jeremy entered Marymound Treatment Foster Care in 2006.
When he first started at Marymound School, Jeremy had difficulty adapting to classroom structure and expectations. After half-day tutoring sessions at home during the following year, he attended full day classes in the school under the guidance of a new teacher. Through a strong relationship with his teacher and consistent support from his foster dad, Jeremy’s behavior started to stabilize. He began to communicate more calmly and follow directions, and understand classroom expectations.
Over the course of one year, Jeremy’s transformation was amazing. He became a positive role model and leader for other students to follow. He was always willing to lend an extra hand and help out anyone in need. Jeremy also enjoyed making sure everyone else followed the classroom rules.
Jeremy also showed his academic and athletic prowess. In the 2007-2008 school year he received an award for most improved student, and the following year received awards for athlete of the year as well as congeniality, courtesy, and attendance awards. Jeremy joined the Hockey Heroes program in 2009 and continues to make his mark on the program as an all-star, mentoring other kids while making sure volunteers are aware of anyconcerns about the program.
Jeremy successfully transitioned out of Marymound into the public school system in 2010 and continued to express his compassion for others by helping students with developmental disabilities. Jeremy is currently in 11th grade and doing very well.
‘Jeremy’ is a pseudonym to protect his privacy.
Despite coming from a very unsettling and challenging environment, ‘Rachael’ developed a strong sense of right and wrong as a young teenager. She tried to initiate change in a difficult family situation but it led to being placed into Marymound care along with her sisters.
Rachael progressed through three foster care placements that enabled her to attain goals necessary for a successful transition to independence. The individual foster care providers were all uniquely skilled at providing Rachael with supports specific to her growing interests and needs.
Rachael always responded to guidance and support but realized on her own the importance of a post-secondary education along with the benefits of being supported on an Extension of Care. During this time, Rachael’s motivation and determination were relentless in her pursuit of advancement as she utilized her Extension of Care to its full potential over three years. She earned a high school diploma, completed one year of studies at the University of Manitoba, and recently graduated with a Health Care Aid Diploma from a community college, all while working two part-time jobs.
As Rachael matured from the age of 18 to 21, she discovered her calling of giving back to the community by utilizing her education to support the city’s aging population as a Health Care Aid.
The completion of Rachael’s education was fortuitous, as her three-year Extension of Care recently finished and she has since moved into her own apartment and found full-time employment.
Rachael overcame many early-life challenges through her perseverance and determination to advance and find her place as an independent and successful adult with a promising future.
‘Rachael’ is a pseudonym to protect her privacy.
At seventeen years of age Brandi needed to prepare for eventual adulthood but had few independent living skills and a future filled with uncertainty. She came to Marymound in 2012, entering the Young Parents/independent Options Program (YPP/IOP), determined to make something of her life.
Through the program Brandi learned necessary basic life skills and soon started working in the Marymound kitchen where she completed a successful three-month term that included food handling training. Seeing a future possibility, a motivated Brandi became very focused on all aspects of the kitchen as she transitioned to a nearby cafeteria-style restaurant to receive further training.
Brandi has now learned many aspects of a restaurant, including food handling, being a line cook, server and cashier. Her biggest thrill working at the North Main cafeteria was helping cater events for musicians like Johnny Reid, Goo Goo Dolls, and Neil Young. Needless to say, Brandi loves the perks of her job!
Her future is beginning to take shape. She has found a career path through Marymound and would like to go back to school and finished grade 12 before pursuing her dreams of becoming a chef, and then one day owning a café.
Brandi is still part of the IOP and may not yet be a chef, but she already has the right ingredients for success—resiliency with the determination and perseverance of following her dream.
Cheyenne at age 18, is a petite, well-spoken young lady embarking on an exciting time in her life. In the fall of 2012, she headed to the University of Manitoba with the help of a Marymound educational bursary. “I aspire to be a teacher,” she said in an interview at Marymound in August.
The road to university hasn’t always been an easy one for Cheyenne. “When I was in middle school, my marks were low. People didn’t believe in me,” she said, explaining how classmates called her derogatory names. “The teachers knew I was a kid in care – “one of those” – who they didn’t expect to amount to much. I decided to prove them wrong.”
Cheyenne has been in foster care since the age of two, and has lived with Joanne L. (who she calls “Mom”) and her family, in Marymound’s Treatment Foster Care Program for the past 12 years.
“Nothing in school came easy for me,” Cheyenne wrote in her bursary application. “I was never the fastest, smartest or the most talented, but that never mattered to me. Whatever I lacked, I made up for with hard work and perseverance.”
By the end of grade eight, she had made it onto the Honour Roll and stayed there throughout the rest of her high school career. Cheyenne graduated with honours this year from Springfield Collegiate Institute with marks (all in the 80s and 90s) that gained her early acceptance into university. To top things off, she also received five awards, excelling in math and music. She also took first place in an art contest.
Cheyenne can hardly wait to start the five-year program and aims to be a high school English or drama teacher. “You can do so much with words,” she explained. “You can describe things – you can express your opinions and views.” The spirited teenager also loves to read, especially enjoying books by Cornelia Funk and Kit Pearson, but also expressing a penchant for Shakespeare.
When she’s not doing schoolwork, Cheyenne enjoys painting with acrylic and watercolours and sculpts with wire. She still plays her flute every day and played in three bands during high school. “I’m always doing something,” she laughed. “I’ve played soccer since I was seven and like biking.” She is working full time over the summer at the concession booth at Bird’s Hill Beach, saving half her paycheque for university.
“I never thought I’d go to university,” Cheyenne admitted. “When I heard that I received the bursary from Marymound, I was so excited!”
Financial support is only one way Marymound has benefited Cheyenne. “I’ve developed relationships through Marymound, “she said. “I am good friends with Jodie (her foster care case manager),” she said. “Even when she’s not visiting our home, we talk on the phone and sometimes go to movies. I am very close with my sister Lisa who is in her 30s. I can share anything with her.”
Cheyenne has some words of encouragement for other youth in care who have goals and dreams. “Lots of youth don’t know what they want to do. You can’t always decide on the spot. Find something you really enjoy and if you love it, go for it.”
15-year-old Maya resides in a Marymound Group Home. In the past year and a half, she has settled in well. Despite not having attended school in a long time when she arrived at Marymound, she has now earned all her Grade 9 credits at the nearby community high school, and will be finishing Grade 10 this year. She has set a goal to graduate and is proud that she will be the only member of her family to do so on time. She is considering her options regarding post-secondary education.
Maiya is now able to have successful home visits, something that was not possible when she first came to Marymound.
Braeden is a nine-year-old student at Marymound School who has made leaps and bounds since first coming to school. Where he used to keep to himself, showing little interest in schoolwork, he now has come out of his shell to be a positive role model in class. Braeden completes all his assignments, participates in several options classes and now has many friends in the class. He interacts with all his peers and is the first person to include others in a game of activity, helping them if needed. He even encourages classmates to be respectful of one another.