Marking the Milestones of Life – Celebrate Them.

Graduates tossing their capsIt is a tradition in most cultures to mark the milestones in a person’s life. In our culture, we celebrate with gifts and a sense of excitement when a mother is expecting a child. When a child is born, the family gathers to celebrate new life. As a child grows we celebrate birthdays and mark the years of physical and emotional growth. In school we celebrate graduations; pre-school, grade school, middle school and finally high school. As young adults fall in love and get married they mark a lifetime commitment with a wedding ceremony. Promotions and new jobs mark our success and progress at work. And even death gives us a chance to celebrate the life lived and the impact of those who passed on the ones who remain.

Most of the children who come to Boys and Girls Homes have had their lives marked with a different set of milestones. Some mark their lives with memories of abuse at the hands of parents, relatives or neighbors before they ever attended grade school. Some remember their first alcoholic drink or use of drugs in middle school to numb the pain of daily life. Others remember using sex as a way to feel wanted, accepted and loved. Many of our children can recount each of the eight to fourteen homes where they were placed before coming to Boys & Girls Homes. And, of course, all can remember the first day they arrived on our campus, just another placement on their life journey.

 At the beginning, Boys and Girls Homes is to most of them another place they are sent and will soon fail, be moved on and then forgotten. But through the determination, teaching, caring and love of our staff new milestones begin to mark their lives.

They graduate from the initial placement center to a cottage home, learning to live with other boys or girls like them. They grow through self-examination, acceptance and behavior changes with promotions to greater freedoms and responsibilities in their cottages and on campus. They begin to accelerate their learning and academic progress in our school, achieving levels of academic success never experienced before.

Some celebrate at age 13 or 14 their first birthday or Christmas with real presents, cake or holiday meals surrounded by people who care deeply about them. And finally, in this season of milestones they also get to celebrate their own academic success and transition to adulthood with graduation from high school and graduation from care at Boys and Girls Homes.

This June, we celebrate a huge milestone as we see many young people who have been with Boys and Girls Homes for years move from residential-care to self-care. They are equipped with the educational, social, emotional and spiritual tools to be successful in the next phase of their lives. We are sad to see them leave, but excited for these new lives and new opportunities for OUR kids. We are proud of the men and women they have become. We look forward to many more wonderful milestones to mark the progress of their lives. Celebrate with us as we celebrate them, our life graduates!

Mike Garrell is the Director of Development for Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina.

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