Tom (not his real name) was a sullen, angry, and frustrated teenager when he first came to the Rebecca Sieff Centre for the Family Vocational School in the tenth grade. During that first year he rarely attended school and when he did he was very aggressive, often lashing out at teachers and classmates and causing damage to school property. He trusted no one and found it impossible to adjust to the school’s framework. Tom, who was morbidly obese, had low self-esteem and a self-hatred that manifested itself in his extremely anti-social behavior. His negative body image was the catalyst for much of his communication and behavioral issues, and his life was totally out of control.
It was clear from the start that for Tom to have any chance of success in his life, drastic changes were needed. He was given one-on-one support from the school staff, which included emotional and behavioral therapy, visits to his home, accompanying him to meetings in the community and comprehensive counseling at school.
In his first year at school Tom succeeded in losing 20 kilos (44lb) on a carefully balanced nutrition and physical fitness regime initiated by school counselors. Students from the cooking track were assigned to cook him low-fat, energy-filled high protein meals to keep him satisfied and as his weight decreased, his self-esteem grew and his spirits lifted. His weight-loss success became a team effort. He started to attend school regularly and found the confidence to communicate with his classmates and learned through mutual understanding to trust his teachers. Every day presented new challenges. When Tom would revert to his old behavioral patterns and refuse to recognize his own worth, his teachers and counselors knew to look beyond the bravado of his behavior. Their support and encouragement , and that of his classmates, was unwavering.
Tom is now in his final year at the Rebecca Sieff Centre for the Family Vocational School and the progress he has made is evident both physically and in his general manner. He is warm-hearted, friendly and very popular among his classmates. He continues to benefit from the emotional therapy that has released him from his obsessive anxieties, allowing him the freedom to enjoy school life and dedicate himself to his studies. Tom has managed to conquer the demons that had made his life miserable and life for all those around him intolerable.
Just a few years ago, it was unthinkable for Tom to take the bus alone. Panic and anxiety would overcome him and he just could not do it. Independence was an alien and frightening prospect for him. Now, he is on course to successfully complete his vocational study certificates. He plans to do his army away from home, exercising the independence and tools of self-worth that have been invested in him by the professional and compassionate management of his once fragile character by the team at the Rebecca Sieff Centre for the Family Vocational School.
Even during the darkest days of Tom’s worst behavior, the school believed in him - but more than that, they gave Tom the confidence to believe in himself and to take control of his life.
Tom benefitted greatly from learning in the Mahut (Resilience) Center, where he was given tutoring tailor-made to his own personal learning and social difficulties and where he received the tools to succeed that will carry him through a productive and healthy life.
(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)