Austin’s adolescence was fraught with challenges, but the loss of a close friend to suicide at the age of 12 pushed him over the edge. Intense feelings of guilt and sadness led to issues with substance use and truancy, and eventually, legal trouble. Without the support of a positive peer group, Austin
gave in to negative influences within his community. After being involved in an incident of arson, he was placed in a residential treatment program.  

Subsequently, Austin was referred to the Safe At Home program through Pressley Ridge and began working with Wraparound Facilitator Joshua Donohew. Safe At Home, which is funded by the state of West Virginia, aims to reduce out-of-home placements and keep youth in their home by providing families with temporary individualized wraparound services.  

After entering the program, Austin continued to struggle with substance use, truancy, and impulsive behaviors. He wrecked his grandmother’s car while driving under the influence at a high rate of speed. After reporting that he had intended to end his life, Austin was admitted to a mental health treatment facility. 

Austin reentered Safe At Home in March 2021. He continued to struggle with consistent school attendance due to illness, depression, and difficulty coping with past trauma. Austin and Joshua explored alternative options for his education while focusing on his overall health. Austin began a routine that included regular gym workouts. The renewed focus on his physical health became a motivating factor in abstaining from drug use. Over time, Austin’s negative behaviors and aggressive outbursts decreased.  

Austin’s resolve was tested once again in June 2022 when he and others were present when a friend suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Austin visited his friend in the hospital prior to his passing, and although the situation was difficult, he displayed a great deal of maturity and compassion for others involved. Austin became a source of support for friends as they grieved, while leaning on supports from different areas in his life to maintain his sobriety and overall progress. 

Several months later, Austin was accepted into Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy (MCA), a voluntary military-based school that gives youth the opportunity to earn their high school diploma while training and mentoring them to become contributing members of society. Austin entered MCA in October 2022, and although he was doing well, he chose not to return after Thanksgiving break.  

Joshua eventually convinced Austin to reapply to MCA, and he returned to the program in January 2023. Determined to make the most of his time there, Austin worked hard and was named Platoon Leader and earned honors such as Cadet of the Day and the Instructor’s List. 

Austin graduated from MCA with his high school diploma in June 2023. Following graduation, Austin obtained his driver’s license and began working at McDonald’s. When he turns 18 later this year, he plans to join the military. Austin also wants to help others going through similar situations by becoming a peer support and sharing how he has overcome his struggles with success.