Frank Horton has done a lot since he left SaintA’s Residential program almost four years ago.
After going to a foster home, the 19-year-old graduated from Richland Center High School in 2013. Then he went into WisCorps, a nonprofit organization that gives young people experience in conservation efforts on public land. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Richland Center for a semester but ran out of the money needed to return. He spent last year’s Christmas break in Arizona with the parents of a friend and got to visit ancient Indian sites.
He’s now holding down two jobs in Madison, where he lives with Elise Brown, the aunt of an acquaintance, and her husband. He’s looking forward to studying culinary arts there, then perhaps after he earns enough money as a chef, he’ll go back to school to study archeology, which has always fascinated him. His love for poetry continues, and he says he’s created about 150 pieces in recent months.
But despite all that forward movement, Frank often looks back to the year he spent at SaintA.
“He’s always talking about it, so I sent an e-mail to see what people would say about a visit,” Elise said.
Frank’s SaintA therapist, Chris Kangas, replied that he and others would love to see Frank again and invited them to a recent outdoor picnic for staff.
Frank came to SaintA at age 15 and left when he was 16. Chris remembers that he was the only Residential youth at the time allowed to go outside unsupervised. He usually ran, about a half hour every day.
Frank “looks just like a gazelle when he runs,” Chris said with a chuckle, adding that the running was good for Frank’s self-regulation in addition to being great exercise and something the teen simply enjoyed a lot.
Frank remembers times when he would bring out a kite and just lie in the grass flying it. He refers to Chris’ office, with its low lighting, colorful posters and soothing scents, as a place of peace for him.
“This is where my haven was, this room.”
What did Frank learn from the staff, the activities, his time at SaintA? Self-control through meditation he quickly answers. He still does it two hours a night.
“Also a lot of adapting to situations I put myself in and then have to get out of. Putting it into Kangas terms, I learned how to bend like a papyrus reed, not stand still like an obelisk” Frank said with a laugh.
He also learned, “patience, patience and more patience, the ability to center myself,” Frank said.
“He always has a lot of positive things to say about the coping skills he learned here,” Elise said.
When Mike O’Leary, division director of Residential Treatment, greeted him, Frank immediately told Mike that he owed him a ping-pong match, because they were tied when he left SaintA.
“It’s fairly rare that residents come back,” Mike said later, and it’s always nice to see them and know that they’re doing well. The fact that he remembered ping-pong and that we were tied 4-4, well, this is a kid that developed relationships.”
When asked what Frank thought his life might have been like without SaintA, he quickly answered: “Honestly I probably would have landed in jail because of things I reacted badly to.”
Chris said he was really happy to see the young man he had spent so many hours counseling, and especially to learn he’s on the right path.
“Well, we’ll never forget you!”