Children do not lay awake and dream of becoming a drug addict. In life, roads are taken and paths are traveled and before you know it, you are involved in a nightmare you never thought possible. I wish it had only been my life that was affected, but I brought along innocent children whose only hope was for a mother who loved, cared for, and protected them. One out of three isn’t bad…I truly loved them.
Through the many trainings I have attended, I have learned that “trauma” had a lot to do with the choices I made. The death of my father, living in poverty, being bullied, six of seven children, a brother with special needs, were the things that formed my world. These events, though I tried my best to normalize them, shaped me in ways where I felt the need to escape which became a nightmare that lasted 21 years of my life and nearly 10 years of my children’s lives. How wonderful would it have been if people in the 1960’s had been Trauma Informed?
Fast forward to recovery, I began attending college thinking it would aid me in helping my children with their homework. Before I knew it, I began to gain knowledge for a career and an accomplishment no one would believe I could succeed at, especially me. I graduated with honors, maintaining a 3.96 GPA and earned a multiple subject teaching credential: Preschool-Adult Education. I dreamed of having my own elementary school classroom. I felt I was born to teach. With high hopes, I became a substitute teacher, an on-sight substitute, and a long-term substitute. I worked hard and did whatever I could to achieve my dream of having my own classroom. I had stacks of letters that praised my ability to reach the unreachable and encourage the unteachable. But after five years of searching for a classroom where I could make a real difference as a teacher, I had to let go of that dream in order to survive.
In the wake of this failed dream, with a broken heart, the principal of the school encouraged me to apply for a position within San Diego Youth Services’ Prevention Early Intervention (PEI) Program, a school-based program where I could remain in a school environment. I did and eventually, I would become a “Promotora.” Today I am a Lead Trainer and “Family Youth Partner”.
When I began work as a “Family Youth Partner”, sharing my story of recovery to whomever would listen was easy because I have always
been an “open book.” But never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the capacity to reach so many people from so many sectors of our county.
Even though I don’t have a class room, I have been able to provide trainings to the private sector, teaching families and colleagues of dangerous new synthetic street drugs. I have been able to reach family after family, breaking the stigmas associated with mental illness and how important it is to have a healthy mind. I have been able to facilitate parent support groups, after-school children’s groups, assemblies, special events, health fairs and so much more.
Additionally, and still without a classroom, I have educated San Diego/Riverside county field workers who encounter families like mine. I have trained the Child Welfare Worker who is trying to keep the family intact. I have instructed the Behavior Health Specialist who keeps the family voice in the center of all planning. I have reminded various county and provider staff that their work is not in vain. And if they ever became overstressed or overwhelmed, to think of me and the hardships my family had endured and how someone just like them had helped to make my family successful in recovery!
I now realize the classroom I have been working in is so much bigger than a single cubicle room. My classroom is the community in which I live, the environment where I work, the county where a voice brings about hope for the future and change for the better. Who would have known that the roads I have taken – as painful as they were at the time – were not in vain, but actually lead me to find a destiny bigger than I could ever imagine. I was born to teach, because I was born to be a Family Youth Partner! – Linda Ketterer
Do you know a Child, Youth and Family Partner who is making a difference in their community? Nominations are open for a possible feature in a future edition of Our Voices Matter, a column promoting Caring People in the CYFL Newsletter. Send your nomination via email to CYFLiaison@namisd.org