My journey to ESCAPE began when I was suspended for 90 days after getting in a fight in the school office. While I realized this was a bad decision, the opportunity to come to ESCAPE was ultimately one of the best decisions I have ever made. Pastor Willie and the staff at ESCAPE have taught me to reflect and look at things in different ways. Most importantly, the ASAP program has helped me get over my childish behavior and understand that getting in trouble all the time or trying to be cool wasn’t the way to go. ESCAPE has changed my way of thinking. I have a better mindset and I truly want nothing but the best for myself. Rather than being caught up in trouble, I find myself caught up in schoolwork. Since starting at ESCAPE 3 months ago, I have finished five classes with all passing grades. I have two classes left and only three weeks left here at ESCAPE before I return to Holland High School. ESCAPE allowed me to stay on track and not fall behind…the incredible staff wanted nothing but the best for me, helped me push through this difficult time and encouraged me to strive to do my best. I am truly grateful for this second chance and that I’m getting closer to graduating.
– Jaden, age 16, sophomore at Holland High School
Here is an excerpt from a letter by Steve Grose, President of Holland Board of Education, who wrote to ESCAPE after a reinstatement hearing for “Lex”, a young man who was expelled from school:
You and ESCAPE can be proud of the way you have shaped that young man’s life. It isn’t often that we see kids in reinstatement hearings that show the poise and maturity that Lex showed. I was impressed with how he could state his goals, and he wasn’t willing to sell himself short in terms of what he can do with his life. I’m sure Lex, like all kids, is a work in progress. But the work you have done so far is awesome and if you are having half the impact on other kids that you have had on Lex, those kids and our community will come out as winners. Thanks so much for the work you are doing.
– Steve Grose, President of Holland Board of Education
Hear from Shari Garcia, a Pastor and business owner in the Holland Community:
To whom it may concern:
My name is Shari Garcia. My husband, Raul Garcia, and I Pastor Casa Del Rey Holland church. I have admired Pastor Willie Watt for the amazing job he has done with the underprivileged youth in the Holland area. I chose to take a position last year with the Escape program Holland Youth Connections. I worked hand in hand with a number of youth that were in the HYC as a result of being in the Escapes school program. I heard first hand stories of young people that were given a second chance to finish school where the public school system had let them down.
One young man told me that because of a conflict with another student, this young man had been expelled. The other student did not get expelled. This young man was not able to move to another district as he had been expelled. No other school would take him. Escape gave this young man an opportunity to not only see his mistakes, but not turn him to the streets, but allowed him to get an education, inside a controlled place, out of trouble. This young man was one of the hardest and most detail oriented member of that team of 12!
Another young man had a hard start at life in his home situation. He thought that the street life was the only way to get anywhere. He was in the HYC program and also the Escape school program. The way the program was set up and the type of people they employ not only gave this young man a alternative to street life but also walked along side him through his struggles as he began to change his way of thinking. Escape offered a disciplinary action to every back slide. Each action was put into place to train this young man through his issues and how to look at each decision he makes, through a different point of view. Escape encouraged better decision making. This young man did not feel condemned and abandoned by his community. He felt a safe place where mistakes can be made to strengthen the man he will one day become.
I support the Escape program and their outreach to the community. I feel they are very under supported. I feel that many youth in the Holland Community have benefited from the Escape programs and more need to be reached!
Casa Del Rey Holland
Michael Glines is an outdoor supervisor at Magna which is one of ESCAPE’s Career Connections job sites and former President of the Holland Optimist Club:
April 9, 2018
Mr Willie Watt
202 East 32nd Street
Holland MI 49423
Dear Mr Watt
Subject: Escape’s youth work program
This will be the third year that I have worked with the Escape youth that are in the the Youth Work Program. The last 2 years I enjoyed working with greatly as they worked in areas that were a jungle and turned them into beautiful landscape. So am once again looking forward to working with them this year.
Want to especially note the good work that the Escape Youth have done at Magna in Holland for the last three years. Two of these years I worked with them and witnessed the good work myself. Each of the 3 years the youth from Escape have done a fantastic job of cleaning up the outside of both Magna plants on 128th st in Holland. This was very challenging work as they were put in areas that needed lots of attention and they got the job done every year sooner than expected.
The work at Magna was originally scheduled by the current GM Brad Hilton who is a big advocate of the Escape Youth Work Program and has already OK’d weeks of work with multiple teams for work in 2018.
In 2016 I took some before and after pictures because the difference was so big. I have attached some of those to this letter.
Looking forward to working with the Escape Youth at Magna in June of 2018,
Outside Supervisor at Magna during the Escape Youth Program
Past President of the Holland Optimist Club