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Troubled teen finds peace at Rawhide

When Josh arrived at Rawhide he had only one thought, “How can I get myself kicked out?” As a troubled teen, Josh felt uncomfortable with structure and being held accountable. Plus, he was away from his family and friends. Josh was not accustomed to following rules, and felt unsure of what lay in store for him.  He said, “When I first got here it was pretty rough because I didn’t know [what to expect]. I [had] never been that far from home before.” He was an angry young man who was ill-equipped for facing his strong emotions.

By his own admission, Josh “was always the person who would cause trouble.” He displayed anger aggressively. He quarreled, initiated fights, and lacked empathy for those around him. Josh’s misbehaviors caught up to him and he faced disciplinary action from both his school and law enforcement. He was sent to Rawhide for the opportunity to change his behavior and lack of emotional control. What he found surprised him.

Learning to navigate life

Initially Josh thought, “Rawhide’s a Christian place and that’s not me.” Josh learned the staff merely wanted to share what God meant to them. Rawhide is faith-based and believes in demonstrating God’s love through day-to-day living—to lead by example rather than words alone. As a result, many troubled teens learn to put their trust in God, and so did Josh eventually. He opened up a little and disclosed that he had difficulty trusting people. The hardships he endured earlier in life forced him into a shell with only anger and aggression as protection. Through constant interaction and encouragement, Josh found safety and learned to trust the youth care workers. They remained by his side and never gave up on him, which up to that point was a rare occurrence in his life.

Through faith he discovered how to deal with problems and navigate difficult situations without anger, leading to a happier life. But some lingering issues remained.

Josh left Rawhide after 2 years, equipped with new skills to cope with his anger. He had hope for the future as he started to apply lessons from his education and training. However, he ran into some trouble. As he puts it:

“I did something stupid and was sent back to Rawhide.”

For Josh, going back to Rawhide proved to be a blessing in disguise. As much as he wanted to get back to living life as a normal teenager, he still lacked certain skills to fully integrate into a  community without external guidelines.

Transition to “formerly” troubled teen

The second time around, Josh had to atone for some poor choices. He worked full-time on the ranch and volunteered, envious that the other guys had more free time. Once he completed the majority of his reparations, Josh had a moment of clarity. He grasped the vast amount of time and money he wasted. Specifically, he mulled over the things he could do with the money he lost because of bad behavior.

He finally understood where he went wrong and cautioned new guys at Rawhide to avoid his missteps. He advised them to put their energy into improving, and not merely going through the motions. He said,

“You can truly do it to get outta here or fake it to make it. And faking it to make it is not going to get you anywhere. It’s just going to get you in a worst situation or back here… If you really want to do good and change, you will take their advice and let them help you.”

Josh truly enjoyed his life at Rawhide. He fondly remembered feigning wrestling, joking with staff, and recalled laughing uncontrollably after running into a pole after a wild tube ride down a ski hill during Winter Adventure Week.

Evolution through self reflection

Josh recently left Rawhide and is enrolled in a new high school away from his former life and distractions where he plans on playing basketball and football. He is most thankful for the staff at Rawhide because of their “support and ability to work with you through all your issues and all the problems you have.” Without the opportunity to improve his life at Rawhide, Josh believes he would be on a path towards destruction. He suspects he certainly would still exhibit aggression and have trouble maintaining composed behaviors. He concluded, “The odds are I would be dead.”

Josh’s experience exemplifies the perseverance, acceptance, and determination Rawhide’s staff dedicates to helping guys. However, his transformation emphasizes that troubled teens will only truly overcome their difficulties when they personally identify their shortcomings. The safe environment and constant support from our staff provided Josh the chance to make that identification.

For Josh, the surprise outcome was the emotional calmness that comes from faith and believing he had the ability to control his feelings and actions. For a troubled teen, that is an enormous accomplishment.

Rawhide draws at-risk youths from across the state of Wisconsin and helps them turn their lives around. These services would not be available without the support from the many generous donors who help fund our mission. Please consider helping us help them.