An unexpected measure of success

A recent experience with an alumni student reminded me that the way we measure success may need to be redefined.  At 1:30 in the morning, an alumni student showed up at the school asking for help.  He walked away from the school when he turned 18 (more than a year ago), against his parent’s wishes.  But when he really needed help, he returned to FFS to ask for help; not as a student, but as a “family” member.  He knew he could come back to “the family” and without challenge, judgment, expectation or cost, ask for and get help.  He stayed for a few days, did important work with a sponsor at the school, helped out at the school (did service work), was taken in by staff and felt renewed and ready to leave a few days later, intending to return to his mother to make things right with her, re-establish going to meetings, getting a sponsor, returning to work, etc.

On our statistic sheet, this student was noted as an unsuccessful departure.  But, now we are thinking differently.  He knew that he could return (even unannounced) and get help, be cared for and pointed in the right direction.  We were reminded that this is a successful outcome – it says a lot about who we are, who we want to be – and we are thankful that he felt comfortable enough coming back and asking for help.

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One Response to An unexpected measure of success

  1. Jeff Brain says:


    It may surprise you, but once again this admissions director will share with you excerpts from a letter that we received just this week from one of our alumni on “Inmate Letterhead” from a county justice center. His insight and feedback is as necessary and helpful as any letter we get from an alumni announcing his engagement, marriage, children, graduation from college, grad school, law/medical school, etc.

    Writing to his former family leader, he writes….
    “…I’m in serious need of wisdom and not to mention a friend. For years, you were like a father away from home for me and you did more for me than you will ever know. When I left FFS, I was striving for awhile, stayed sober for probably a good 6 months, eventually life became boring at home and the only thing left was the same old friends to hang out with…. I started to loss sight of everything I learned at the school and lost the truly amazing feeling of sobriety (he details his decline into drug use and eventual arrest for stealing a car). I can honestly say the two years at that school were the BEST two years of my life – REAL people, real friends, real love, real faith, real support. I would give anything to have that back, especially now.
    The Family School was my family four years ago and I need that family back again more than ever. I love and miss you all. I owe you guys my life and I mean that! I hope that as soon as I get cleaned up, I can visit and share my story to help those kids not end up dead or in jail.
    Ok – we all can be skeptical of “jail house” conversions and letters. We’ll see if he is serious about getting the help he needs. But what I think is worth noting, is that this student was able to draw back on his experience at FFS to help fuel his desire for recovery – and that he felt connected enough to ask for help. We see our students as family, and just like you, family is always there to help in time of need.

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