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Josh's Story

(Left to right) Jackie Barksdale, Carole Johnson, Josh Eldridge, Celeena Mackley and Misty Mackley celebrated Josh’s graduation.

It could have been the angry outburst that ended Josh Eldridge's time in his Boys Town North Florida Family Home. Instead, it turned out to be the turning point in the teen's journey of healing.

Josh had been in six placements prior to entering Boys Town's residential care program in Tallahassee in 2016. The then-16-year-old was dealing with a lot of issues, including being distant and not wanting to interact with people. But one of his most serious challenges was anger control.

Trinity and Misty Mackley, Josh's Family-Teachers®, worked with Josh every day, teaching him skills for calming down when he got upset and strategies for getting along with others and building healthy relationships.

One day, however, Josh became extremely angry and violent. When he went to push Misty and punch Trinity, the couple called the police. But rather than having Josh arrested and taken away, they just filed an incident report.

For Josh, the event was life-changing. He realized, perhaps for the first time, that the Mackleys and other Boys Town staff truly cared about him and saw that he had the potential to succeed in life. Most importantly, he learned about forgiveness and how it can provide the opportunity for a person to make amends and start over.

"We were willing to work with him and that alone made a really big difference for him," Trinity said.

Gradually, Josh used this new perspective as motivation to work harder on his behaviors and skills, and to improve his grades at school.

That change in heart and attitude paid off earlier this year.

In May 2018, Josh proudly received his high school diploma from Tallahassee's Betton Hills School. His future plans include attending law enforcement training school and pursuing a career as a wildlife officer or a police officer. And even though he's left Boys Town North Florida and the Mackleys, he knows their love and support will remain with him as he starts a new chapter in his life.

In a poem he wrote while still a Boys Town youth, Josh summed up the uncertainty and frustration he sometimes felt:

What if…?

My mind is full of "what if…"
And my mind is hurting my heart inside of me.
I'm tired of all of these questions.
"What if…?

What if my dreams don't come true?
But what if they do?
What if no one likes my music?
But what if they do?
What if?

My mind is killing me with all of these questions.
And I don't want to give up and quit.
But it is just, "what if?"

What if my friends give up on me?
But what if they don't?
What if my family gives up on me?
But what if they don't?
What if I don't find the one on the way?
But what if I do?

What if my dreams don't come true?
But what if they do?
O, what if they do?
O, "what if?"

What if they do? What if they do?
What if they do?

Now, with Boys Town's support and his own determination, Josh is finding out that no one is giving up on him and his dreams can come true.