Dear alumni, alumni family, current student or family, or just the general passerby who finds themselves in front of this screen,
The following is a letter I received from a Cedar Ridge Academy Alumni who left over 10 years ago. It's such a pleasure of mine to get notes like this, as well as the cards, graduation and marriage announcements that show up in our mail box. The work that students do at Cedar Ridge can be difficult, overwhelming, and almost seem impossible--but when students do the work and apply what they learn as they move forward in their life, they most surely have the best of chances to succeed. I want to thank all of our current and past students/families for sharing their time and their life with us during their stay at Cedar Ridge Academy. We hope the best for you as you take on the world. Whether you consider yourself a success story or not, we would love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org
We want to thank Melissa for taking the time to share her thoughts in this letter she sent us and for making the trip to Mesa, AZ to connect with our karate team trip. The group really enjoyed meeting you and learning from your story.
Whatever directions my mind wandered in tonight that brought me back to Cedar Ridge really made me miss those good old days. I wanted to let everyone that was there when I was there (not too many of you I don't think anymore) know how I'm doing and how I think about all of you and my experiences there all the time, 12 years later. Of all of the kids that have come and gone there I'm not sure if you remember me, but I remember you started there not too long before I left.
It's funny how you look back and realize all of the things that were really important growing up, all of the petty things that I hung onto. The highest level I ever made it to at Cedar Ridge was 700. It seemed that every time I started going good I sabotaged myself somehow. Rob wanted to see me get to 900, and I wanted to get there, but I turned 18 and the levels could no longer apply to me. When I left there I was so far from ready to tackle life according to the things I had been taught. But I was so much more prepared than I had been upon arriving there a year earlier. The things I learned at Cedar Ridge I always thought were pretty neat and had ultimately saved me from dying of a drug overdose, but it wasn't until my divorce some 8 years later that I really grasped what I was taught.
When I came to Cedar Ridge I felt anger and I felt happiness. There were no other emotions in my reality. Rob helped me search out the different emotions I really had and helped me to identify them and accept them. The rules of quiet and calm behavior that we lived by there always seemed a bit extreme to me until I realized that the only way to hear what I was thinking in the middle of life's insanity is to be quiet and listen. If I hadn't learned those very special skills I would surely have turned back to drugs while going through the toughest time in my life. It was a divorce and custody battle that lasted for 3 years and landed me and my kids in a women's shelter and in hiding for almost a year of that time.
So, while I can't say that I have always made the best decisions in my life (obviously my choice in a husband didn't rank up there), I have always been able to turn back to the lessons I learned there and move forward into more and more success. I would consider myself to have a successful life, especially when I consider the alternative if I had never gone to Cedar Ridge. I have done things backwards, it took me a while to really absorb everything Rob tried to teach me. But as I round my 31st birthday I feel so much smarter in so many ways. Emotionally maturing, as I know it is a life long lesson.
I had my children at a young age, my daughter coming when I was only 19. I came up there shortly after her birth and spoke to the group about what can happen when you make the choices I made, my beautiful baby girl in hand. I wasn't married, I was young and dumb still. After that I did marry and had my son a year and a half later. And I became a stay at home mom. Six years later, when I left my husband, I realized that if I wanted to support my kids without depending on his child support I had to do something with myself. So, at 26, I went back to school.
In February I graduated with my Bachelor's degree in accounting, I work for the University of Phoenix. I live in Phoenix, AZ with my kids and we have a full life. I am able to give them so much more than I ever dreamed possible with just one parent in the house. I will start my Masters program in the fall and will get my CPA license once that is complete. Most importantly, my kids know what sadness, hurt, excitement, passion, frustration, happiness and all the other emotions are, and they can articulate their emotions to me, because I was able to teach them that. I couldn't have done that without all of you.
I guess what I have to say is this. While I didn't realize things right out of the gates at the young age of 18, it was the instillation of the values and morals that Cedar Ridge helped me achieve that have made me into the person I am. They are the reason I have been able to weather so many storms successfully, and the reason that my almost 11 year old daughter can come to me when she's hurting and cry it out on my shoulder. Cedar Ridge is the reason my kids can't live with themselves for more than a day if they tell a lie, and the reason they are the kids they are. Sure, their mom had to raise them to be that way, but who helped me become that person? Cedar Ridge did. I know I make plenty of mistakes with them, and you'd better believe if they ever need it they will be a new generation of kids there! But the reason I would never hesitate to send my own children to Cedar Ridge is because I know what it stands for and I believe in what you do.
At any rate, I hope this email wasn't too long and drawn out, and I do hope you will forward it on to Rob. I love you all.