I’m a Proud Cousin

Photo property of Megan Stewart

Photo property of Megan Stewart

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to visit with my younger cousin, whom I haven’t seen in a very long time. Part of that is because he lives a half hour away, and the other part is that he’s currently attending Sunburst Youth Academy. He’s been a troubled teen for quite some time, getting into all sorts of trouble, from drugs to the wrong crowd to trouble with the law.

He left to start this program nine weeks ago, and he’s already a changed person.

My cousin has completely turned his life around. Before, he didn’t really want anything to do with us, but now, it’s all love and smiles and hugs. This past weekend was “Family Day,” where all the cadets are able to visit with their loved ones for a few hours, whether that’s to make amends, enjoy some good food, or just to see who really cares about them.

Imagine my surprise when not only has my cousin grown at least three inches since I last saw him, but his whole demeanor and outlook have grown and changed as well. There’s no longer this kid who was full of excuses and bad attitude. In his place stood a man. “A man on a mission,” according to his Cadre.

Throughout his first nine weeks, he has transformed himself both physically and mentally, has gained the respect of his peers and superiors. He’s won awards for fitness, has perfect grades, and is an inspiration. During our time visiting, all cadets put on a presentation of sorts, and my cousin was selected–by his peers–to lead his platoon.

He has pushed himself to become a better person, to inspire others to want to better themselves. A few months ago, I’d never believe anyone if they said that my cousin would ever pick up a book willingly. Now? He’s read all his books for his classes, and not just because they’re required, but because he wanted to.

I cannot wait until he gets to come home for good, and we–his family–can help him continue to grow into this new and wonderful individual with goals and drive. I couldn’t be more proud.

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