Prepare for Impact
By Rachel Dick
After learning about Katie and the way Creating Positive Relationships was able to reinforce what her dad had already taught her about sex, I began wondering about the students who needed CPR for reasons other than sex education. What about the students who didn’t necessarily struggle with sex but rather needed help forming healthy friendships? After all, CPR’s name implies that they help with just that, right? Well, this brings us to Michael whose name has been changed to protect his privacy.
I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Michael at Starbucks recently and chat with him over a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino. Though we were surrounded by strangers sipping on their beverages, Michael’s immediate openness and enthusiasm to share what CPR did in his life left me excited to tell his story.
After asking him to tell me a little bit about himself, I learned that Michael’s life has been one laden with dynamic relationships. Moving from his childhood home at the age of fifteen, Michael found himself jobless and lacking any real direction in his life. He was very honest in telling me that he began making friends with a rough crowd.
“Every cop in town knew my name.”
As I was wondering how these friendships began to take their toll on Michael, he told me about the feeling of extreme isolation that resulted in these friendships. Though he loved writing poetry and reading authors like Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and Edgar Allen Poe, he felt like he couldn’t let his friends see that side of him.
“I couldn’t be myself, I had to be hardened.”
He explained to me that his desire for friendships caused him to conform to the people he was surrounding himself with, as he was afraid they’d judge him for having a sensitive side. I realized that, unfortunately, this conformity only led to further loneliness as he knew he wasn’t being true to himself. That is, until Mr. Nelson’s high school health class.
Michael told me that Creating Positive Relationships came to his health class during the second semester of his freshman year. The first day of CPR instruction he saw videos of other kids his age sharing their stories of CPR’s impact in their life. Michael conveyed to me just how much he was able to relate to some of these stories. I was surprised to learn that, wasting no time, Michael joined CPR’s Teen Advisory Board (TAB) that very same day.
While talking with Michael, I was reminded of an analogy I had once heard: the term impact likened to a train wreck. Through the screeching brakes, twisted metal, and train cars piled on top of one another, that moment of impact leaves the vessel completely altered, incapable of returning to its original state. Like a train wreck, impact can be messy, shaking up entire lives. I found this to be the case for Michael.
Once he became a member of TAB, he began attending the different activities that CPR mentors organized, like getting frozen yogurt, hanging out at local parks, and attending local concerts. During these activities, TAB members, other students Michael’s age, all talked with each other about life and how to encourage other kids to join CPR’s TAB. Noticing this stark contrast between the ways Michael used to spend his time and the people he was now choosing to surround himself with, I asked him what it felt like.
“It was like a little vacation.”
By surrounding Michael with these students who, like Michael, committed to forming healthy relationships, CPR taught him to be himself, as the positive group setting eliminated his fear of being judged.
“They helped me assimilate into a new setting. I didn’t have to be the guy everyone wanted me to be.”
It became clear to me that the unhealthy relationships Michael had originally been a part of were suddenly being replaced by positive, healthy friendships. I then realized that this impact indeed shook up his life as he began weeding out previous relationships. The friendships and the confidence he gained made the moment of impact a messy yet rewarding one.
I was happy to hear that, like Katie, CPR’s impact in Michael’s life continues to reach beyond the classroom. Now that he’s out of high school, Michael tries to keep in contact with his friends from TAB.
After hearing about TAB’s influential role in his life, I wondered how he was able to take what CPR taught him and translate it to other areas of his life. Michael explained to me that he’s been able to make healthy friendships outside of CPR as he continues to be himself, not hiding his love for Starbucks and country music from the people he surrounds himself with. Through forming these healthy relationships, Michael has even gained the confidence to now be in management training at McDonald’s at the age of eighteen.
Creating Positive Relationship’s true impact in Michael’s life became evident when I asked him where he thought he’d be today if he hadn’t ever been exposed to CPR.
“I’d be in juvy, jail, or dead. Without a doubt, that’s where I’d be.”
Meeting Michael taught me that, for him, CPR was a saving grace. CPR mentors switched the tracks, teaching Michael what healthy relationships should look like and, in the process, derailed the unhealthy ones he had.
Michael’s one piece of advice that he wanted to leave with you really resonates the impact CPR had in his life. His message?
“You’re not alone.”
Come back next week for the third and final post in this three-part series about “Insights on Impact.” There, I’ll tell you about Luke, a young man who found a second chance through CPR.