Jeff and Misty's Story
Before they were Family-Teachers, before they started a family of their own, and even before they met, Jeff and Misty understood what it was like to grow up in an unhealthy environment. Surrounded by gang violence and drug and alcohol addiction, both seemed headed for certain poverty, likely incarceration, and possibly even early death. Then they found Boys Town.
Jeff and Misty recently moved to Boys Town and started their new lives as Family-Teachers. Once children of Boys Town themselves, Jeff and Misty strive to break cycles of hardship and downturn for struggling teens. They diligently work to establish a safe environment, giving kids the opportunity to learn and grow, both emotionally and academically. The result is that Jeff and Misty have the chance to give back to children through the organization that gave them so much. Watch their story below.
Watch Jeff and Misty's Story
Misty: My name is Misty.
Jeff: My name is Jeff Sweezy.
Misty: We've been married for 13 years on December 6th. We have two children, our son Lennox who is 11-years-old and our son Xander who is 9-years-old.
Jeff: When I started getting into first grade, second grade of elementary school, I noticed I was different from everybody else, and I didn't know why I was different. I was different because my parents did drugs, and they were alcoholics. I didn't have friends because I wore dirty clothes to school. All the other kids in the neighborhood picked on us all the time. Me and my brothers were in fights daily. Every day we were in some kind of fight somewhere.
Misty: I remember seeing so many drugs in my childhood that at one point I was told that when I was three I got a straw and I went and sniffed the flour, because I was so accustomed to seeing it and I thought it was normal. It was pretty scary, because a lot of times they were absent and I didn't know where they were, and I didn't have a way of contacting them.
Jeff: I don't doubt that my parents didn't love me. I know that they loved me, but a lot of my childhood was covering for them. When the police would come by and ask us about the drug use and the alcohol use, we constantly told them what we knew to say, not what we should say, which would have removed us from the home that we were in. Because we loved our parents and we wanted to be with our parents. No matter how terrible home is, taking a child from their parents is the hardest thing on that child. It's crazy that you would defend your parents so much that you would lie and live the way that we did just so that you could be with them.
Misty: I was held back. I missed a lot of school. I didn't learn to read until I was in fourth grade.
Jeff: For food we would load a grocery basket up and just push it out the front door of the grocery store just so that we could have food for the day. A lot of times my dad would turn around and sell the food that we did steal. Then my father died, and my mother abandoned us. I moved in with my aunt.
Misty: At one point my dad was unable to take care of me so I went back into a foster home. I was in a total of six foster homes. I didn't even see myself living past my teens. I just didn't see life past anything. I didn't care, because at that point I just felt like why should I care if nobody else cares.
Misty: I was able to go to Boys Town at the age of 13. Once I went to Boys Town and really got to know the difference between functional and dysfunctional, and then I got to see the interactions, when I went back with my family I was like this is not right, and this is not how I want to live, and this is not what I want to be a part of. It was very family oriented. Everybody was always included. It was just, I don't know. I feel like I made my most changes in that house. I grew up. What made me work hard was knowing that I felt their love and that they were genuine with me and that they meant what they were saying to me.
Jeff: They removed me from the environment that I was in which was a very destructive, very harmful environment. Boys Town doesn't change you. Boys Town gives you tools to help you change yourself.
We reconnected, and me and Misty realized how much we did enjoy each other's company. I think our past and similarities of Boys Town is what brought us together in the beginning, but our common goals for family values and being a good upstanding member of your community and things of that nature is what keeps us together.
Misty: It's important for us to have family around our kids. It's important for our kids to experience what family is, what parents are, what love looks like, what caring looks like, that we're there for them, that we would do anything for them, and we're there to support them. It's important for us to never let them...We don't ever want them to feel unwanted. As a kid, that is the worst feeling ever.
Jeff: What I learned from Boys Town that I rely on today is that my family is always going to be the most important thing to me, and I will always be the most important thing to them. I would do anything and everything for them, and I would do the same for Misty.
Misty: You know, you tend to have a lot of peer pressure, especially in bad environments. If you grow up in bad environments, it's really hard to get out, especially if you don't have the resources. I think Boys Town gave that helping hand to me to allow me to change the cycle of my family.
Jeff: Without Boys Town, you're talking about thousands of kids that need help, need to be removed from an environment.
Misty: I'm a huge, huge advocate for Boys Town, because if it wasn't for Boys Town I don't feel like I would've had the will to want to live.
Jeff: The last time we visited with you guys, that was in Florida. Since then, we have moved from Florida and became Family-Teachers here at Boys Town.
Misty: I now get to go and have this opportunity to change other kids' life, and I see it. And that's, I think, the most rewarding thing about this job is when you see the changes.
Jeff: As a Family-Teacher, my hope to provide to them would be a safe environment, a healthy environment to learn and grow spiritually and emotionally, academically, and just find out what they're doing best and make it better. Find out what they're doing worst and make it their best. And that's my goal as a Family-Teacher.
Misty: We have very high expectations for our guys, but at the same time, we do our best to make it extremely family-friendly and know that, you know, we still love and care for them, but we're just not...you know, we won't tolerate certain behaviors, and we're gonna hold them accountable so that they can better themself. And I think they get that feeling from us.
Jeff: Over the last year, we had one situation where we had a young man in our home who got into trouble, and then it turned out that the story we were told wasn't exactly the story that happened. And we fought so hard to keep him in Boys Town, and he was able to stay, and he has thrived since being here. And that is why we came to Boys Town was to take someone at their worst moment and build them up and make them a positive role model. That's why we're here.