Published on July 30, 2013, by in Internships.

Jessica PenaWhat a jam-packed day. My mentor and I started the day with treatment plan meetings for three of the newest boys and one for a boy whose time has recently been extended. Treatment plan meetings generally occur three times during the typical 90-day stay. The initial meeting (for new residents) is attended by the treatment team only. This team is made up of representatives from each department responsible for aiding the resident’s rehabilitation. The meetings are used to assess the resident and their current situation. Discussing any progress the resident has made is a big part of the meeting. The goal of the meetings is to determine if the resident’s plan is working successfully, if not, changes are made. The boys attend all the meetings after the initial planning meeting. The meetings helped me to understand the importance of structure and progress in a juvenile’s treatment. Organization and sticking to a plan is crucial in this line of work, BUT it is equally important to be flexible and ready to make changes. Understanding and the ability to read others are skills a counselor must possess.

After treatment planning, my mentor and I began to set up for family night. Once a month the boys are allowed to have family visit for dinner and activities. Every boy looks forward to family night and the possibility of seeing his family. I noticed that as soon as the boys saw my mentor, they would ask her and re-ask and check again if they had family coming. Even when she told a few of them that it wasn’t likely they were still hopeful someone would show up. When dinner was brought over from the kitchen, my mentor and I began to set up. All of the boys asked if there was anything they could do to help. They were very helpful and polite. Once the cleaning and set-up was done, the waiting began. The boys sat around the room, not so patiently waiting for their guests to arrive. They talked to each other and the staff to pass time. Occasionally, their impatience took the best of them and they would gather around the window to check if anyone was coming. There was no way to hide the hope and excitement in each of their eyes; the value of family really struck me in these moments. Here were these tough boys, branded as criminals and claiming the “thug-life,” bouncing around like puppies waiting to see their families. It was truly beautiful. When families began to arrive it was even more touching. Three of the boys had younger siblings visit. The little ones ran and hugged their older brother usually giggling and excitedly telling them everything they could. These boys held on to the little ones the entire visit, only putting them down when it was time to go. It was an emotional sight. It made me so happy and so sad all at once. These boys with such loving hearts mixed themselves into trouble and have been forced away from the ones they love.

Already this experience is teaching me to be in check with my emotions. Being a counselor, I will see so many emotional things. It is most important to keep my “poker face” and not let whatever I am hearing or seeing affect me negatively. This has always been my main concern, but I impress myself. I have learned not to suppress my feelings but shift them towards a more useful outlet.