Authored by: Denise Pilz, Executive Director
Norris’ Residential Program provides treatment, education and 24/7 care to male youth ages 12-18. The youth are in our program because they have experienced trauma in their young lives that they are trying to understand and overcome to be able to focus on their strengths and find a positive path in life. I think it is human nature when we are stressed, trying to cope or have been victims of abuse and neglect to only focus on ourselves, our own needs. When I think about some of the experiences that our youth have had and know that they are away from their families, it always amazes me when some of the boys step up to do good deeds for others. Norris has had a few youth in the past couple of months think about how they can help others when they have very little themselves.
One example is a youth who decided he wanted to build a dollhouse for his sister so he talked with his Learning Specialist at the Norris Academy and they put together a plan for this project. Not only was this a great gift for his sister but also a way for him to learn about researching the right kind of materials, calculate the measurements needed for walls, the roof and windows and learn how to use different tools to construct the house. I don’t think this youth realized all the skills he gained because his focus was to put a smile on his sister’s face.
A second example is when a group of our youth made 2×4 toy cars and they decided to donate these cars to the Hope Center in Waukesha during the Holiday season. The Hope Center serves 5,000 people per year who have high needs and are homeless or on the verge of being homeless. Of the 5,000 people they serve, about ¼ of these are children. When one of the toy cars was given to a girl at the Center she looked up in amazement at one of the staff because she could not believe it was for her to keep! If this random act of kindness is not an example of the spirit of giving, I don’t know what is.
Because of some of the difficulties our youth have and the ways they sometimes choose to express themselves, they often carry the stigma of being a “bad” kid or a “problem” child. We need to remind ourselves that in spite of their behaviors and struggles, they are still kids who are vulnerable, need guidance, direction and compassion to help manage their feelings and emotions that stem from trauma. The acts of kindness described in this blog provide insight into the compassion these youth have for others that we know is in everyone but sometimes masked by their own struggles. At Norris we strive to take the time to tap deeper into a youth to find their true spirit so they not only recognize they have this spirit within them, but give them the opportunity to let it shine bright every day.