Youth Villages stories

Joshua graduates with his high school diploma at the Inner Harbour school

Outdoor Recreational Therapy at Inner Harbour shifts Joshua’s outlook on life

Mar 26, 2024 | Blog

Joshua learns how to trust people and navigate mental and emotional hurdles 

“I arrived in handcuffs, and I was scared, but the first thing I heard when I arrived [at Inner Harbour] was you don’t have anything to worry about anymore.” 

These are the words of Joshua, 18, who didn’t quite understand how to deal with his emotions and mental health. His journey with Youth Villages is a testament to the importance of understanding a child’s or young adult’s mental health.  

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the average age of juvenile offenders in Georgia is between 13 and 17 years old. Joshua fit into this statistic at 17 years old after being incarcerated. His journey of navigating depression and self-doubt led him to hanging with the wrong crowd and experimenting with marijuana. Joshua was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder and smoking triggered that disorder. 

One incident at his old high school led him to being incarcerated. For Joshua, there was more beneath the surface. Joshua struggled with feeling like he’d become a burden to everyone around him. 

Joshua shares a smile after his time with Inner Harbour

“My thoughts were what’s the point of life… does anyone care about me?” Joshua said. “I tried to find a high in drugs. I was out of it and had no clue what I was doing.”

- Joshua

Joshua gets extra support at Inner Harbour 

Joshua’s mother, Katrina, has always been in his life and cared for him. As a parent, it was difficult to navigate Joshua’s behavior as they both didn’t quite understand how to deal with his diagnosis. After appearing in court, a judge instructed Katrina to find help with her son’s mental health needs. 

After an online search, Katrina found and reached out to Youth Villages, and this began a healthy new journey. After Katrina arranged for Joshua to enroll at Inner Harbour, he was transported to the campus. 

Joshua recalls thinking he was getting transported to another incarceration facility and had no clue where he was going. 

“[Upon arriving], I felt the love, and that they cared about me”

- Joshua

The Youth Villages residential campus of Inner Harbour in Douglasville, Georgia, emphasizes providing new positive behavior patterns that will allow youth to do well in the community. One method unique to Inner Harbour is its outdoor therapeutic recreation. 

Joshua began to embrace the lessons and outdoor activities relatively quickly and started to learn about the importance of having structure in life, how to express himself and cope with his emotions through positive experiences. 

Joshua and his mom, Katrina

“All the activities I found to relax my mind and get my thoughts out in another way were amazing,” Joshua said. 

Joshua also credits his improvement to the many staff members who guided him while on campus. One of them being Ms. Kelly, a counselor at Inner Harbour. Ms. Kelly says she’s most proud of how well Joshua took to the program and has adopted the lessons to use them in his real life. 

“He was just grateful and humble,” Ms. Kelly said. “The best thing for me was to see the change in him and see him use what he learned in the community.” 

Within four months of being at Inner Harbour, Joshua earned his high school diploma and graduated from the Inner Harbour School in late 2023. Now, he is currently enrolled at Gwinnett Technical College studying cybersecurity. He has hopes of becoming a ‘penetration tester,’ also known as a ‘pen tester,’ where one performs simulated cyberattacks on a company’s computer systems and networks. 

Joshua’s priorities are now simple: maintaining a good mental health state, surrounding himself with people who have his best interest at heart, and achieving his career goals. 

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