Today is the final installment in our guest series from the New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences (NJAAS). Throughout this month, we’ve heard directly from the students in the CAUSE program and what it has meant to them. Today, we hear a parent’s perspective on how the program transformed her daughter from a shy girl into a confident leader who looks forward to college and a lifetime of meaningful work.
By Annette Cabrera
Parent of Alexis S., 4th year student in CAUSE Program
Before my daughter started in the CAUSE program, she was very shy, had low self esteem, covered her face with her hair, and did not care about her appearance. She did not interact or talk with many teens her age. Today, she holds her head high, face free of hair, has high self esteem, can speak with anyone of any age, and takes the time to dress in the morning. This transformation has to do with her participation in the CAUSE program.
The program as a whole has encouraged her to come out of her shell. The weekly meetings that address personal and professional life skills, CAUSE camp, and other programming has helped her to be the outgoing and passionate young woman she is today. To me, she has shown tremendous growth in her overall character. She likes teaching me what she learns about in the program, enjoys writing more than she ever has, and now has no issues being in the forefront, and continues to give back to the community.
Because the program is about giving back to the community, she has returned year after year because she knows that spending time with others and giving back can help someone get through a rough time. She now visits many homeless and domestic abuse shelters with CAUSE and on her own. She has also volunteered to plant trees with Bon Jovi, and do community service clean-ups for Camden. Alexis told me that seeing children without homes or mothers that have been battered, reminded her of her childhood and past. Life has been difficult for us at times, to say the least. It made her happy to see the children and moms smile as a result of her being able to take them to a mental place (the beach, the ocean) and teach them something cool and awesome, if only for a short time.
During her first year, she learned that science can be fun, interactive, and hands-on. She didn’t see science like that before. Now she continues to show a love and passion for the subject, especially aquatic science. She talks to many people about her aquatic science knowledge—anyone that will listen, even her peers at school. Alexis is now anxious to graduate from high school and move on to college. She wants to work with children in some capacity. She feels that her decision to attend college is a direct result of the program. They have encouraged her to stay in school, study hard, and look to a bright and successful future.
All in all, it the support that she gets from the program that has enabled Alexis to focus for the future. They are her cheerleaders in a way.
I feel lucky that the program came into our lives; as a result we have been able to learn about each other (mother and daughter) and have great dialogue. I wish that all the youth in Camden get to experience this program, because they can learn about aquatic sciences, interact with other teenagers, enhance their self-esteem and prepare themselves to go to college. The CAUSE program is so important for the youth it prepares them for future education and employment.•
Special thanks to the staff of NJAAS and the students in the CAUSE program as well as Annette Cabrera for joining us this month on the Dodge blog. For more information, please see the NJAAS website and find them on Facebook too.