Clifton was 8 years old when his mom died and life has never been the same since. His dad did the best he could to raise Clifton and his siblings, but it was a struggle. “I always think about how my life would be different if my mom hadn’t died. I think about it every day.”
Clifton grew up in the Detroit area, but he moved with his dad to Las Vegas when the construction industry went down in Michigan. Unfortunately, Clifton followed the wrong crowd out there and started getting into trouble. School was very challenging for him and the teasing didn’t help. He started 9th grade but let the influence of those around him pull him down. Eventually his actions caught up with him and when he was threatened with violence –partly, he admits, due to his own mistakes– his dad pulled him out of school.
All this trouble created tension at home. Clifton wasn’t getting along with his Dad, “I was that person who didn’t want to listen to anyone.” Finally he up and left. Eventually he found his way to Job Corps, but it didn’t provide the kind of support he needed. With his poor academic history, Clifton wasn’t ready for the type of program they were offering, he needed more one-on-one support. It wasn’t long before he dropped out.
When Clifton first came to us, he was angry and admits that he did a lot of arguing. “I was still mad and didn’t want to follow the rules at all.” He did, however, enroll in Covenant House Academy. Over time, his behavior in the shelter wasn’t improving and he began skipping school. The staff at CHA noticed his absence at school and tracked him down.
A teacher sat down with Clifton and had a long talk to find out what was troubling him. Turns out, aside from his general rebellion, Clifton found his math class to be too challenging. Clifton hated math and felt he didn’t understand anything he was learning. The teacher gave him a specialized program to help break the steps down and Clifton was able conquer this obstacle which seemed to have him beat. “That extra help made a difference. My teachers were really involved in getting me to that next step.” He feels that this experience of conquering a very real difficulty in life taught him something larger. “Now I know I’m not a quitter. I’ve got that stubborn streak and before I used it to rebel, but this time it’s going to help me stay on track.”
Looking back, Clifton wishes he had stuck it out in Job Corps and found a way to make it work. “I could have had my high school diploma by now,” he laments. “Instead since I never even finished 9th grade, I am looking at a few more years of school at Covenant House Academy.”
Now that his life is turning around, Clifton wonders, “Maybe the fact that I’m still alive, that I survived all the stupid stuff I got into, was God’s way of telling me ‘I have better things in store for you.’ Now that I’m done rebelling, my dad and I are back in touch. That’s why I’ve been happy this whole week because I’ve been talking with my Dad. He’s back in Michigan and he wants me to come and live with him. I want to, but I have to make sure I can still get to school.”
Clifton’s has started working in our intern program and Ms. Gray (CHM social worker) helped him get an application for a job at Kroger. “I’m hoping that comes through and I can keep working while I finish high school.”
It is because of all those who support Covenant House Michigan that stories like Clifton’s are here on our page. If you aren’t a currently a part of our Covenant House Family, give us a call and see how you can get involved.