Reaching the heart

HERSEY – Curtis used to steal to feed his drug addiction. He used to lie to get what he wanted. Then he went to Eagle Village.

Now, Curtis is doing well in school, with 80 percent or higher in all of his classes. He is looked up to by other residents, and he is learning self control.

He has come a long way in the nearly six months he has spent at Eagle Village.

“Before I came to Eagle Village I used to lie and manipulate situations to get what I wanted,” Curtis said. “I used to have a drug problem that was starting to take over my life and what I care about most. One thing I still struggle with today is staying positive when things don’t go the way I want them to.”

On Friday, Nov. 8, Curtis made his Heart Stage presentation. Heart Stage is the largest milestone residents can achieve at Eagle Village, a goal only reached by about half of the residents.

“Reaching Heart Stage takes a certain level of maturity and a certain amount of self-acceptance,” said Ame Edstrom, director of residential services at Eagle Village.

Getting to Heart Stage isn’t easy. Residents must have good grades in school and earn points each day by fulfilling their goals.

“Observation is the first stage,” Edstrom said. “It’s when the kids first come in and they are observing us, we are observing them; getting to know each other. That’s typically a two-week time span. Then they go to Hands Stage, where they are learning hands-on what the rules are, what the structure is, that sort of thing. Once they get that down and they are doing pretty well and their grades are where they need to be, they can go to Head Stage. This is where they start to really get it, but sometimes ‘Fake it to make it’ is still in the head. The message hasn’t really reached the heart yet. Then once they do what they need to do and the heart and the head are connecting, they get into Heart Stage and they believe in their heart that there are things they need to work on and they are working on them.”

At Heart Stage, Curtis is able to wear his own clothes and walk around campus on his own. He is trusted to make good decisions and be a positive role model for his peers.

“Heart Stage seemed so far away when I was on Hand Stage,” Curtis said. “I thought I was never going to get it but I worked really hard and got it pretty fast.”

Curtis has completed his program, and is excited to leave Eagle Village and put into action the techniques and ideas he has learned.

“I’m looking forward to showing the people who looked down on me or thought I couldn’t do well or that I was a bad person that I can do well,” he said. “It’s just the bad choices I made that made me look like a bad person.”

Curtis recognized where he was, where he is, and where he wants to be in the future on a poster he used during his Heart Stage presentation.

He wants to be a reporter. He wants to have a family. He wants to be someone others look up to and admire.

“I want to be the person known for overcoming the difficulties of his past,” Curtis said.