My Natural Helper

[The author is a young person (pictured below) who benefited from the Reclaiming Futures initiative at our site in Montgomery County, Ohio. The site has recruited over 190 "natural helpers" from the community for teens in the juvenile justice system. - Ed.]
juvenile-justice-system-natural-helpers_LakieshaBeing in the natural helper program saved my life! I never imagined that when I was placed on probation that I would be linked to people who truly cared about me, let alone my future. 
My first probation officer suggested that I participate in the drug court program because I had a problem with smoking weed. I used to get high all of the time, and I started to mess up. You know like, getting in trouble with the police, getting into it with family, and skipping school. Headed for destruction, so to say. 
So when I got into the drug court program, they told me about a mentoring program called natural helpers. I had never had a mentor before, and honestly I didn’t know what to expect. Would this be another person to tell me what to do or how to do it? I decided to sign up, thinking, "What do I have to lose? If I don't like it, I'll just blow it off. Easy." Boy was I wrong. 

After signing up, I got a phone call from this lady who said she wanted to meet me and that she was my natural helper. “Here goes nothing," I thought. 
juvenile-justice-system-natural-helpers_Mrs-FletcherMrs. Fletcher, my natural helper [photo at right], came into my life at the perfect time. She helped me to see that I was special. She constantly told me, “Your present does not define your future, Lakiesha.”  Whenever she said that, I got this feeling inside, like I could be somebody. 
She took me to church, introduced me to her family, and spent a lot of quality time with me. She even took me shopping! When I had my baby, she came to the hospital to visit and asked me if I needed anything. I began calling her “Ma”, cause that’s what it felt like. I even asked her if she could be the godmother to my son, and she said yes! 
Now that I have become drug-free and graduated from the drug court program, I am on the right track again. I plan to go to college to study computer technology, and feel confident that I will make it. I am grateful for having a "natural helper," because it has opened my eyes. 

Updated: March 02 2010