Daniel’s Story

Daniel is a client of The Child Center’s school-based mental health clinic at Richmond Hill High School and our Health Home Program, which serves Medicaid-eligible youth who suffer from multiple chronic conditions. The program ensures coordination of care so that needs are neither neglected nor duplicated and the client has access to the resources that will help him lead a healthy, fulfilling life.

I came to The Child Center because my mom made me. I was getting in trouble, fighting, and being wild. I was lost in drugs. I was a real knucklehead. My mom talked to my student counselor at school and informed me I was starting therapy. I thought it was weird, and I was mad she made the decision without me, but she told me I didn’t have a choice.

Therapy was weird at first, but after a while, I started learning what was going on with me. I am from Colombia and grew up there until I was 13. I saw drug dealers, violence, friends getting killed right in front of me. There was a lot of stuff going on in my life at a young age that took its toll on me.

Our school-based mental health and Health Health programs turn out success stories like Daniel, who graduated high school in June.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it left me with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I was always thinking someone was looking for me and felt like I had to watch my back. I needed to learn how to deal with this constant anxiety instead of denying it. My therapist, Juana Subi, taught me to recognize my triggers and taught me coping strategies that help me remember I have nothing to worry about — that no one is after me, and those things are in the past.

As I started to get better and think about practical things, Juana introduced me to another Child Center program: the Health Home Program. I met Esperanza Torres, the program director. She is a great support regarding what I want to be in life. I told her that I have wanted to be a doctor ever since I performed first aid on someone following a car accident and helped save the person’s life. Knowing CPR is a requirement for being a doctor, so Esperanza enrolled me in a CPR class, which I’ve successfully completed.

She helped with so much my senior year, like my senior dues, which pay for things like my cap and gown, the senior breakfast, and so many other things that I didn’t know cost money and which my family couldn’t have paid for on our own. She helped me secure employment, which helped financially and with job skills, and to get my driver’s license. She followed up with my school to make sure I was doing well and met with my parents to make sure we were all communicating and that they were able to support me through this crucial year.

I graduated in June and was accepted to four colleges. I’ll be attending Medgar Evers College in the fall. I’m overcome with gratitude for the support that got me here, and I know I wouldn’t have gotten this far without The Child Center of NY.

People think children don’t have problems — that all we have to worry about is school. But that’s not true. Depression and anxiety had a big impact in my life. Some kids have other problems, like ADHD or a learning disability. I’m telling my story so I can be a role model. I want other kids who are having serious problems to know there are people at The Child Center helping kids like us.

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