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From Slacker to Scholar: Youth Credits Boys Town for Happy Transformation

It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning when the only constants in your life are nasty jokes, vulgar taunts and shameful putdowns… all lobbed at you by former friends.    

In elementary school, Anna was sensitive and studious. By middle school, she was a shell of her former self. Friends had made her an outcast. They socially isolated her, bullied her and left her self-esteem in tatters. Even after moving on to high school, nothing changed but the scenery. Anna remained a social pariah.  

Believing her life was a “train wreck,” Anna simply gave up. Most mornings, she refused to get out of bed and go to school despite repeated threats and warnings from her father, Stephen. Sometimes, he used physical force to try to get Anna moving. It was a battle of wills between Dad and daughter that left both emotionally and physically drained. Theirs was not a happy home.

Anna’s chronic absences got so out of hand that by the end of one semester, she had tallied only five days in class. That degree of truancy drew the attention of the juvenile court system, and Anna eventually was placed in the Boys Town Nebraska Family Home ProgramSM.    

Going to Boys Town was “devastating” for Anna. She thought it was a place for juvenile delinquents – druggies, thieves and thugs; not someone who just skipped school.  

In reality, Anna had serious emotional and behavioral problems that had overwhelmed her, her father and her teachers.

Adjusting to life in her Boys Town Family Home wasn’t easy for Anna. She couldn’t lie in bed all morning in order to avoid school. She couldn’t ignore or refuse to follow the instructions of her Family-Teachers and other adults. When she tried those behaviors, negative consequences came quickly.

At first, Anna felt like everyone at Boys Town, from staff to students, was “on her,” constantly offering feedback and pushing her to do better. Anna would later admit their words were sometimes difficult to hear. But deep down, she understood they just wanted to help her make better choices and be more responsible.

With much patience, guidance, structure and skill-teaching from her Family-Teachers, Anna’s attitude toward school, friendship and life slowly evolved from indifference to enjoyment. She buckled down in the classroom, making up enough schoolwork to get back to her grade level. She eventually made the honor roll, and her academic success allowed her to enjoy privileges like acting in the Drama Club, playing intramural sports and participating in band.

Anna says the support and kindness she experienced from her Boys Town classmates helped change her perception of school and “open her heart.” School was no longer a place to fear. The sadness and shame she felt for so long slipped away, replaced by a little spunk and a steely determination to succeed. Best of all, as her attitude brightened, new friendships blossomed.

While Anna was reclaiming her true self, Dad was preparing to welcome her home.

Stephen attended weekly Boys Town Common Sense Parenting® classes, where he learned how to communicate rationally rather than emotionally. He also learned how to enforce his behavioral expectations for his daughter using age-appropriate consequences that would be meaningful and motivating to Anna.

As it turned out, Dad didn’t need to do much motivating.

Anna returned home with a renewed sense of pride and self-worth. Her senior year, she was selected for the National Honor Society and earned a college scholarship. Not too shabby for a one-time slacker who practically slept through an entire school year.

Today, Stephen and Anna credit Boys Town for making their relationship “twenty times better than ever” and for giving them both a new best friend – each other.

The stories provided about the children and families in our care are real. In some cases, names and details may be changed, and stock photos may be used, to protect their privacy and therapeutic interests.