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Hudson - Litchfield News 14 - June 3, 2011

Against All Odds CHS’s Amanda Taschereau – A Story of Connecting, Caring, and Communicating

by Doug Robinson The four-year road to a high school diploma has not been easy for Campbell High School (CHS) senior Amanda Taschereau. As she describes her “bumps in the road,” “timeouts,” and “internal conflicts,” Amanda readily admits that her behavior during her early years of high school nearly railroaded this young lady from earning her high school diploma. For Amanda, her story is not about what she did. It is a story

of how she righted her personal ship, how she corrected her life, and how she remained true to herself, her friends, family, and community. For Amanda, her story of learning to connect, care, and communicate can be summed up in two words: Bill Hicks. During Amanda’s freshman year at CHS, she made the life-altering decision to ask for help. One day, looking into the mirror, she made the decision to change her life. She made the personal and drastic decision to change from where she was to where she wanted to go. This meant that she would be leaving her friends, values, and, most importantly, her behavior behind. But Amanda knew that she


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needed help. She knew that if she did not change, life as she knew it would be bleak, dark, lonely, and full of adversity. Amanda, drinking down a glass of courage for breakfast, went to CHS and searched out the Student Support Center at Campbell High School, and met her mentor and soon-to-be close friend, Bill Hicks. “At the support center, we mediate, advocate, and do whatever we [I] can do to help a kid stay in school,” comments Bill Hicks. “From the day that kid steps one foot into Campbell High School, we will fight, we will partner, and we will let that student know that they are the most important person to us.” Hicks has spent the past four years as a safe place for Amanda

to go. When the stress of school, home, or community becomes unbearable for Amanda, she knew she always had Bill Hicks. When Amanda felt the urge to regress to her past life, she reached out to Hicks. Hicks has been her safety net and has developed a relationship

with Amanda, which has led her to learn how to connect, care, and communicate with her school friends, at home, and in the community. Through Hicks, Amanda learned how to re-invent herself—from that “troubled” freshman to the graduating senior who was graduating with honors. Amanda vividly remembers her earlier years when the burdens of life were so overwhelming that they broke her spirit, her drive to succeed, and her will to win. She learned that to beat these life adversities, she needed to become a master at connecting, caring, and communicating. Today, she uses her past as a springboard to her future. She has taken those darkest days and learned how to make her present days full of light, hope, fun, and connecting, caring, and communicative relationships. “I am close to my brother, too,” admits Amanda, and “we talk every day. I love my mom and mom never gave up on me. And

when I thought I was not going to make it, mom was always there to encourage me. She’s amazing.” Today, Amanda

looks to the future with wide eyes and an open heart. “I don’t look back anymore. I look forward. I don’t look at the bad things in life anymore, and I have opened up my life to new things. My New Year’s resolution in 2010 was to have a positive attitude.” And she will always know that her mentor, Bill Hicks, will always be reachable at the tips of her fingers. “I surround myself with people who are positive and I now focus on what I have to do.” “Mom is so proud of me. I am going to graduate; there were times when no one would have believed in me or that I would be receiving my diploma. Mom is always talking about how proud she is of me and how I am going to be giving her the best birthday present. Her birthday is on our high school graduation day. Happy Birthday, Mom. I did it.”

Te smiles, personal bond, connection, caring, and communication are clearly seen between student Amanda Taschereau and her mentor, Bill Hicks. Amanda knows that he will always be available at the tips of her fingers

‘Graduating School is Just the First Step into the Journey of Life’ by Doug Robinson

Her name comes from the from the Latin angelicus, or “angelic.” In turn, the ultimate meaning for the name Angelica descends from the Greek meaning “of the angels.” And thanks to the many angels, especially her mom, who have surrounded Angelica with love, courage, belief in herself, and the self-confidence that comes as a young woman, Angelica will be graduating with her senior class from Alvirne High School this spring. She, too, will be taking that “first step into the journey of life.” But the journey for Angelica Wujek,

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an AHS senior, has been a journey that taught and brought to her many personal sufferings, which came from years of taking the journey down that “other” fork in the road. The journeys that Angelica had been taking for her first two years of AHS years earned her grades averaging Ds to Fs. Her journey of poor behavior, poor grades, poor self-esteem, false love from the effects the poor choices she made with the choices of whom she considered her friend, and lack of self-respect had positioned Angelica to a life of failure. Positioned to fail, Angelica had to first embrace herself before others could embrace her fully. To be loved, she needed to love herself first. To be fully loved, she needed to take the journey, one that would teach her that true, long-lasting, caring friendships could not be found in friendships created from “smoking weed,” “skipping school,” “running away from home,” “destroying school property,” “partying,” “disobedience,” and making ‘stupid decisions” starts with oneself. Angelica remembers the time when AHS Dean of Students Susan Hanley suspended her as punishment for her behavior, and she stated, “Thanks, now I don’t have to go to school.” She continued, “I remember when I was a freshman that I was going to quit school and then get my GED. I could not wait to quit school.” As a result of Angelica’s behavior, the NH Department of Youth Services gave Angelica a one-way ticket to the Davenport School as she entered her senior year of high school. “The Davenport School, located in

Jefferson, New Hampshire, is a residential special education school. The Program provides individualized clinical, residential, and educational services for youth. Youth are encouraged to develop adaptive coping skills, appropriate peer and family relations, and activities of daily living such as

As Angelica looks into the future, she sees hope,

strength, and understanding for the meaning of true friendships that build and will last a lifetime. She sees the light as she begins her new journey

community living and social skills,” writes Davenport. “They watched me all the time. When I

ate, when I went to the bathroom, when I showered, when I did my homework—all the time—I was watched every minute of every day. If I did not do my homework, they sat me down and watched me until I did my homework. I hated it. I ran away from them, too. I remember running into the woods, and the snow was up to my knees. I just kept running. Do you know how many trees and woods are located up there? I didn’t care. I don’t know where I was running—I just wanted to get out. I had lost my independence. I was there for six months and I was labeled a ‘habitual runaway.’” And then Angelica commented, “I remember crying myself to sleep at Davenport and thinking of Mom—how I had hurt her. How I only thought of myself. How I wish I had not done the things I had done, and I really wanted to go home. I pleaded with the supervisors and begged them to let me go home. I did not care how many restrictions they game me—I wanted Mom.” “Everybody at home and school thought

that my behavior was because of my family, and it was not. Like I said, Mom is my hero. Mom is very private and I respect that. I finally realized that I had really hurt my Mom and that made me feel really low and I became disgusted about myself.


finally learned that nobody can tell you who you are and that I needed to love myself so others could love me, too. I knew my Mom still loved me and I wanted to go home and be with Mom.”

“Bi-weekly drug testing, unannounced visits from my parole office, school grade requirements, curfews, and counseling” became Angelica’s new journey. “’I don’t need counseling,’ I told the people. But I wanted to go home, so, I did counseling,” she said. Today, as she completes her senior year, Angelica’s journey of the last year (or so) has led her to becoming an honors student for all four quarters of her senior school year. “I hate school; I have always hated school. Even now, I just want school to be over,” comments the honor student. Yet, she next states, “I love to write. I love my English teacher, Mrs. Hedges. I can talk to her. She wraps me in the biggest hugs and keeps telling me I can do it. I am going to get my diploma.” And do it the right way has been the hard-fought story, or journey, of young Angelica. “My mom is my hero. She is my hero because she loves me, no matter what I did.”

Angelica’s journey has led her to surround herself with people whom she respects and emulates. “Mrs. Hedges tells me I am a strong person. Mrs. Hedges is a strong person who tells me to stay positive and always gives me positive encouragement. I sometimes get angry with things at school, and she can see it in me. She just comes up, give me a giant bear hug, and all is OK again.” After AHS, Angelica intends to earn her degree as a Licensed Nurse Practitioner (LNA). “My mom is an LNA and she is always telling me stories how she has helped someone who needed help. She tells me how she has made somebody’s day at work just a little better. And I want to do that, too.” “Graduating school is just the first step into the journey of life,” commented Angelica, and with her diploma in hand, Angelica will begin her life’s new journey. Just as Angelica’s name has a meaning, so does the word journey. The dictionary defines the word journey as to ‘move from one place to another.’ Angelica holds her head high, full of pride and self-worth, and with a smile that simply beams because she knows that the journey she is now on is the correct journey. Positioned for success, Angelica continues to take online courses, work after school, and seek individual help from AHS teachers in order to complete the required work that was missed during her first two years at AHS. She also holds down a job to earn income for her future.

Her commitment to complete the journey to graduate is undeniable. This little angel will graduate from Alvirne High School. She will walk the stage of the graduating platform to receive her degree in her left hand and shake Alvirne High School Principal Bryan Lane’s with her right.

Angelica will continue with

life’s other journeys. With her eyes full of hope, she is confident that she has the strength, knowledge, and understanding to the true meanings of long-lasting, caring friendships and relationships that not only build with time, but will last a lifetime as well. And at the center of her hope, strength, and love is her hero—her Mom.

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