Take their word for it: Students speak about their CHS experience

Julie Cole
Mental Health Counsellor
    Posted: Nov 18, 2013

Change can be a scary thing – especially in high school.  But sometimes, the option of staying the same can be even scarier.

One third of the students at Caronport High School (CHS) are dorm students. For some of those students the desire for personal change fueled their decision to move away from home and come to CHS. That decision provided a fresh start that has brought growth in many of their lives.

“I’d heard about CHS for a long time . . . through Youth Quake and my old youth pastor,” Jessica Ireland said. “Where my life was headed . . . wasn’t where God wanted me to go, so through a bunch of stuff that happened (God) kind of pointed me in this direction.”

There’s a lot of alcohol and drug abuse,” Erica Wiebe said explaining the atmosphere in her old high school. “My parents slowly started seeing me drifting further and further away from God and eventually they figured that I needed to get back on track, so they sent me here.”

“Being involved in a very unhealthy relationship was only bringing me down and I knew I needed to do something about it,” Joleen Keith said. “It wasn’t my will anymore, it was God’s will that needed to be done and Caronport was my only option. I wouldn’t be able to change to who I wanted to be on my own in a public school setting. I needed something stronger. I needed people who really deeply cared about me – people to talk to – people who love the Lord.”

For two of the students, coming to CHS took them out of harm’s way. Matt Brown and Erik Lillico both experienced severe bullying in their earlier school years.

“I was severely bullied in elementary school,” Brown explained. “(I was) anxious, but my anxiety was manifesting an obsessive behavior. I was so anxious about what was going on around me that I found a way to control little parts of my life.”

“I had asthma, I had a speech disorder – I was tongue-tied – so I was bullied quite a bit,” Lillico said.

Both Lillico and Brown have found the environment at CHS conducive for healing in their lives.

“(CHS) just seemed right because it was such a small, close-knit atmosphere,” Brown stated. “(The anxiety) is almost non-existent now,” he exclaimed. “Over the last two years it’s been just letting go of my certain tics. I’m learning how to forgive people in my life – that probably has been the single most influential part of being here – being nurtured not only in your school and education but in the community. I’ve become who I was really meant to be rather than just putting up all these defenses.”

“I’m doing the (summer) play right now,” Lillico explained. “It’s really helped me just being able to get rid of those bad memories of being bullied and being able to be the person I want to be – to go on stage and perform in front of tons of people.”

The support of teachers was a powerful influence.

“What really helped me to change to the person I am at this stage is Mr. Finch,” Lillico said in praise of his choir director. “In choir he taught us all how to get out of our comfort zones and use the gifts God gave us. I think he’s a big reason I’ve become the person I am.”

“My favourite teacher is Miss Klippenstein,” Ireland exclaimed about her English professor. “She’s really wise and I didn’t realize until not so long ago that she has a whole bunch of degrees! The fact that she can sit down and read (my) Grade 12 paper and still give me a good mark made me feel very honoured. She encourages us and brings God into a lot of things.”

The spiritual focus at CHS has strengthened the spiritual lives of the students.

“CHS has made it so much easier to get on the right path to have a healthier relationship with my family, and most importantly, Jesus Christ,” Keith said.

“I’m actually feeling a lot happier,” Wiebe asserted. “Before I came here I was a really depressed kid. It got serious. It’s not hard to be happy anymore. Before I came here I would almost never pray. Now I’m always finding myself talking to (God).”

“I’ve definitely grown in my walk with God,” Ireland said. “Christian ethics really helped me to learn a lot about the Bible and I’ve made amazing friends. I feel like I’ve become more open and confident with myself – standing my ground in what I believe.”

All five students say they would recommend CHS to other high school students.

“Your choices become better, your faith becomes stronger, and your smile becomes bigger,” Keith asserted. “You will meet friends that last a lifetime here at CHS; Teachers who really care about you in and out of school, and an extraordinary student leadership council make CHS the best place you can be.”

Brown added an honest disclaimer to his recommendation of the school.

“If somebody wants to grow spiritually, this is probably the place to go,” he said. “They should be prepared to have a lot of things uprooted in their life pretty quickly here. You hate it at first, but once you look back in retrospect it’s quite amazing what God’s done.”