For most of his childhood David was raised by his grandmother. She loved and cared for David for many years but during his early teen years, his grandmother passed away. With nowhere else to go, David was placed into foster care. David advocated for himself to be placed at Epworth. As a teenager, his social worker considered his request and it was honored.
David arrived at Epworth nearly three years ago. Living in a cottage with seven other boys his age was a big adjustment for him. He was also dealing with the grief and loss of his grandmother. He was not used to the amount of activities and support available for him, and he struggled to find the motivation to get involved with the opportunities Epworth offered. The Epworth staff noticed his struggles, and adjusted his comprehensive care plan to help him adjust to life at Epworth and also to aim higher to reach the goals he set for his own life.
As the months went by, David’s lack of motivation continued. He was going to school each day, but not succeeding. Before Epworth, he had similar struggles, so the staff at Epworth worked with his teachers and school counselors to develop a more hands-on approach to his high school education. They arranged for him to work through Richland School District One’s Heyward Center & Technology Center. There, he was introduced to vocational-based learning, such as construction. The switch made all of the difference for him and he graduated from high school in May 2014.
After graduation, traditional 2 and 4-year colleges were not a viable option for David. Instead, he enrolled in a different program at Heyward that allowed certain high school graduates to continue their vocational programming while also connecting them with a part-time job. David continued his construction courses in the afternoon, but in the morning he worked at the cafeteria at Hand Middle School. The combination of work and education was good for David as he developed more life skills.
In the spring, David visited the Job Corps campus, a vocationally-focused, post-secondary school in Bamberg. As he walked around the Job Corps campus he knew it was a good fit for him, as it has been for other young people in Epworth’s Independent Living Program. When he returned to campus, David completed his application and mailed it off. He later found out that his dream would have to wait because there were no open spots in the program. He was placed on the waiting list.
The disappointment caused David to once again lose some motivation. He sat around the cottage watching television or playing video games. After seeing this behavior return, the Epworth staff encouraged him to find a job to make some extra money while he waited for a decision from Job Corps.
It just so happened that the Epworth dining hall needed some extra help the summer while all of the residents were out of school. Because of David’s experience in a cafeteria, he was hired right away. Then as school started back for the Epworth residents, he re-enrolled in the Heyward program. This year, his part-time job has been helping to provide care at the veteran’s nursing home close to the Epworth campus. While it was not his favorite job, his supervisors commended him on the way he went about his work and how he made sure that everything he was responsible for doing was done correctly.
Finally, in early November, the moment came that he had been looking forward to—he was accepted into the Job Corps program and learned he would begin in just a few days. He was nervous at the news, but the Epworth staff encouraged him and helped him gather the personal items he would need while living in the dormitory.
A few days later, he said his goodbyes to his friends and staff, and he embarked on his new adventure. Surprisingly, saying goodbye was not too hard for David. Since he was starting in November, there was only two weeks until Thanksgiving and he would return to campus. He also knew that just a few weeks after that he would be back for Christmas break. The timing was great for David to adjust to his new experience without being separated from his Epworth support system for too long.
After just a few weeks, David has adjusted well to his new environment in Bamberg. Soon he will have to choose a vocational track, but for now he is evaluating his options. He really enjoyed working in the Epworth dining hall over the summer and is considering following the culinary track. He also likes the idea of working with his hands in maintenance and repairs. David sees that either of these vocations are potentially a good fit for his gifts and will provide him with the skills he needs to reach his ultimate goal of independence and providing for himself and—one day—his own family.
Epworth’s Independent Living program is here to support David’s education and career goals as he transitions into adulthood. This support manifests itself in many different ways, including providing him with an allowance, connecting him with services that help him reach his goals, transporting to and from Job Corps, sending him special care packages in the mail, making extra phone calls to give him motivation to continue to aim higher, providing him with a familiar place to stay for the holidays and making sure Santa has his address for Christmas morning.
Epworth’s goal is to see David and all of our Independent Living residents living their lives as productive, healthy and safe adults. Thank you for your support in helping to make this goal into a reality.