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New Life Children's Center Archives • Upbring

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Reflections From A Graduate

For high school seniors, the arrival of spring often means that one chapter of their lives is ending. In late May and early June, eager teenagers don silk gowns and tasseled caps as they are awarded their diplomas at ceremonies across the country, but on the campus of New Life Children’s Center – graduation day takes on a deeper meaning.

 

New Life is a residential treatment center tucked among the trees in the Texas hill country. Much like the landscape it’s built on, the girls at New Life have often encountered numerous valleys in their own lives, such as years of neglect and abuse that have led to significant trauma. New Life serves as a place to be encouraged through the physical, emotional and spiritual care needed to truly heal. And, perhaps one of the most defining cornerstones of the healing process at New Life is the opportunity for girls to continue their education through the on-site Trinity Charter School. The teachers and staff at New Life and TCS work each and every day to build a foundation for girls to stand upon as they prepare for the bright futures they will live beyond treatment. This May, two seniors took their spots on the stage to graduate from TCS, yes, but also to reflect on their time spent at New Life – what they learned in the classroom and beyond and what they will take with them as they set out to achieve their dreams. Below is the graduation speech of one of those seniors.

 

This day I reflect on my true dedication to success. Today I am standing here a year early based on my determination to continue to improve my life no matter the circumstances.

 

When I first got into CPS, I remember telling my mom that I would end up getting behind in school and that I was just going to drop out since the placements I was being sent to had no schooling. I remember being angry at the world and on the verge of giving up on everything. Until one day, it hit me that what I am going through right now is not forever – that every setback is not negative. My setback has brought more good than it has bad. I jumped from placement after placement losing more and more hope throughout each move. I was wondering what I would do with my life now. Who am I going to run to now since everyone isn’t a tap away?

 

Before this happened, things were pretty normal. When CPS started, I was afraid of being alone and doing this all by myself. It was hard not having my mom to look up to anymore. It was hard to switch from making my own choices to being told when I can shower, when to use the bathroom, when to eat and when to sleep. But without getting a taste of what other worlds feel like and what the pain of others around you feels like to let me know that I’m not alone has shaped me into the person that I am today. It has made me realize that setbacks are not the end of the world. When you have so much time to yourself and you are away from all of the things that got you into trouble, you start to think. And when you start to think, you think of ways to change and become a better person. That is what I had to come to terms with.

 

I am thankful for everything that has happened to me this past year along with everything that I have learned along the way. I am thankful for all the teachers in my life that have wanted the best for me and wanted to see me grow, to use all my knowledge to make a change. I am thankful for my family and friends for staying true to me no matter the distance and not forgetting me. I am thankful for choosing to stop being against change and experiencing the other things that life has for me. I am thankful for deciding to stop being against help from others because without help I would have not made it this far.

 

Everything that happens always happens for a reason, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all the doors that have opened for me. When you truly decide to set your mind to something, beyond the sky becomes your limit. I learned to never let anyone, no matter how much they mean to me, get in the way of my success. People aren’t forever, but your goals are.

 

And last, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has gotten to know me and has been by my side to this very day. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.

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National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Lyla’s Story

During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, it’s important to recognize those who have been personally affected. By listening to their stories, we can learn to notice the signs of abuse and neglect and help lift others out of suffering.

 

Lyla* grew up in a violent home where she endured physical abuse and was often left to fend for herself. One day, after witnessing her mother being beaten by her fiancé, Lyla decided that she had to flee for her own safety. She left home, took the family dogs with her and walked 16 miles to another town to seek help from a relative. It took her a whole day to walk the distance, but she was determined to get away.

 

For the first time in a long time, Lyla was finally safe, but the trauma she experienced had already taken its toll. Lyla was so used to being frightened and protecting herself that she reverted to some of the behaviors she’d resorted to while living in constant fear. She began lying, stealing and skipping school. She knew she was sabotaging her relationship with her new family, but figured they would end up leaving her no matter how well she behaved.

 

Past experiences convinced Lyla that no one would be there for her and that trauma would be an ever-present force in her life. Because of this, Lyla felt the need to arm herself with something sharp at all times in case she needed to defend herself. Having a weapon made her feel safe. Lyla needed help to sort through her painful memories and fear of looming threats. Thankfully New Life Children’s Center became her next home for a few crucial months.

 

While at New Life, Lyla received treatment for PTSD and Reactive Attachment Disorder. She learned that traumas from her past caused her to keep people at a distance because she assumed they would leave her. With some time, therapy, and care from the compassionate staff, Lyla started to learn more about herself. Her bruises started fading and her openness to let others into her life bloomed. She found joy in learning to cook and volunteering. Instead of skipping school and falling behind, Lyla attended class regularly and began achieving on grade level. Instead of hiding behind the scars of her past, Lyla now dreams about her future and is setting goals to make her dream of becoming a pilot a reality.

 

Stories like Lyla’s are more common than you might think. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, last year there were 41,120 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in Texas alone. If an adult in Lyla’s life had recognized some of the signs of abuse and neglect that she was displaying (running away, skipping school, bruises and abandonment), she might have been able to get help sooner. If you suspect a child is being abused, please report it to DFPS now by calling 1-800-252-5400 or by visiting the Texas Abuse Hotline Website.

 

*Lyla’s story is based on the real story of a child Upbring serves. While the story is true, identifying information has been altered to protect the child involved.

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Five Ways to Support a Recent Graduate

Recent graduates are entering an exciting time in their lives. Graduation and the months after open doors to so many new opportunities. Some graduates head off to college, some go to trade school and some enter the workforce.

At Upbring, we’re so proud of all the young adults in our programs who have graduated. Whether they attend high school while in our Foster In Texas Program or attend one of our Trinity Charter Schools through our RTCs, they are given support by staff, mentors and peers that, when ready, allows them to leave our program prepared to take on the task of independent living.

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Mila Sketch
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Mila Sketch: Creatively Connecting Art, Hope and Community

Our mission to break the cycle of child abuse takes a village, and working with our generous friends and community partners, Upbring is helping Texas children build brighter futures.

At our Red Ball gala in Austin, we had the privilege of partnering with Austin-based artist Mila Sketch, who created a painting that will inspire and encourage our girls at New Life Children’s Center for years to come.

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Emily sent a personalized Christmas card to our generous donors
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Harmony Learns to Forgive at New Life

Inspirational message at New Life RTC

Before they complete their treatment and take the next steps in their life journey, some girls leave inspirational messages for others who will call New Life home.

Harmony* started barrel racing as a child. She loved the competition and the peace she felt while riding. But mostly, Harmony loved long car rides, and talks, with her mother as they worked the racing circuit.

But when Harmony turned 10 years old, her mother met a man who introduced her to drugs. Read More

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Running Toward a New Life

Running is more than a great way for kids to stay healthy. Physical activity also releases endorphins that help heal the nervous systems of children who have experienced trauma.

That is why the recreational therapy specialists at Upbring New Life Children’s Center started a running club. One of hundreds of girls who has found confidence through the running club is 17-year-old Anna.

Before she discovered a love for running, Anna brimmed with anger and animosity from painful emotional wounds caused by chronic childhood trauma.

Today, Anna smiles as she finds her stride and races toward the finish line. “I used to be focused on the past,” Anna said, “but now I am excited about my future.” And Anna sure does have some big dreams.

She plans to graduate from college, compete in the Olympics, and then become a doctor.

Running is an example of the recreational therapy activities that are part of New Life’s comprehensive treatment program. The program includes in-depth clinical therapy, spiritual care, preparation for adult living, and on-site education through our Trinity Charter School partnership.

The courageous young girls who call New Life home bring their own talents and dreams. It is our joy to give them a safe place to place to heal, grow and thrive.

 

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Girls Build Brighter Futures at New Life

Painted in beautiful script on a wall at Upbring New Life Children’s Center in Canyon Lake is a quote from the Walt Disney movie Mulan:

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”

Casual observers might chalk it up to nothing more than motivational rhetoric. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that those 14 words speak volumes about the life-changing work being done in this safe, nurturing home tucked away in the rolling Central Texas Hill Country. Read More

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Katalia’s Story

Katalia, whose name means “orchid,” is as unique and extraordinary as the flower she’s named after. Just 16 years old, Katalia is indeed blooming at New Life Children’s Center as a role model and peer leader for other young women in the program. She shares, “Being part of the ‘I Am Strong’ program makes me feel good because I know people are counting on me, and it makes me feel like I’ve grown up.”

Although Katalia admits to liking music and books, her eyes light up when she talks about her family, helping others and working with children. Although she experienced far too much tragedy and many difficult challenges in her childhood, Katalia is determined to become a registered nurse so she can be the kind of adult who helps others in their hardest moments. Read More

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