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It is hard to believe that it’s been almost a year and a half since I left the At The Crossroads community, and nearly 2 years from my first arrival there. My time spent at At The Crossroads was a time of personal growth and maturity.

When I first arrived, I was a 20 year old with a lack of discipline and direction for my life. My parents had sent me to At The Crossroads to find some of that direction I had been lacking. Being a student of the At The Crossroads program was a great learning experience for me. I guess the easiest way to explain how At The Crossroads shaped my life now, is to explain my lifestyle currently.

I am now 22 years old, and living in an apartment on my own with 2 friends and roommates. My one complaint about At The Crossroads is my inability to sleep in past 9. I usually wake up on any given day around 7:30-8:00. My roommates think that it’s funny since I don’t have to be at work until 11:30. I have 2 jobs currently. I am a server/bartender at Olive Garden. Which allows me to have benefits and flexible hours, and I am a part time Youth Minister at a local Church. While I do not get paid a lot as a part time Youth Minister, it does allow me to work in the field that I want to pursue. A career in the restaurant business is not for me. That’s an important lesson I learned from the staff. I learned to not only keep a job, but also to pursue a career that interests me. I have now been working at Olive Garden for over a year, am a certified trainer, and was employee of the month. Many of the traits that they appreciate about my work ethic I did not have before At The Crossroads.

For one I am never late to work, in fact I’m usually early. If I ever can’t make it to work I call and let them know, or get my shift covered. These characteristics were instilled in the meetings I had at At The Crossroads. The structure they gave me in being places on time and a sense of responsibility to commitments I make. With a job I have I now pay for my own bills, rent, phone, car, electric, and food. I also receive compliments about how mature I am for my age, because through At The Crossroads I learned more about responsibility and now have more responsibility then most of my peers.

At The Crossroads also taught me a lot about personal health habits. I remember going to the gym every weekday. I really took to it and enjoyed it. They also forced me to learn how to cook for myself. With the budget they gave us to buy groceries I quickly learned I could get more for my money if instead of buy frozen food I bought fresh food and planned out meals. I use this today, as I belong to a gym, and while I do not have the time everyday to go to the gym I go about three times a week. I understand the importance of eating healthy, and very rarely eat fast food as well as drink soda. I am healthier physically now, and through exercising and eating right I am also healthier mentally.

Now that we’ve covered obvious benefits of At The Crossroads, discipline in job and money, healthier living, and focus. I would love to share some of the not so obvious benefits. I had such a great time at some of the events. Running a half marathon, through the positive influence of staff pushing me through was one of the most rewarding accomplishments for me in years. Visiting Zion National Park, and playing basketball, setting fitness goals, and being involved in a variety of different community events. I think about them on a pretty regular basis, especially when people comment on things that I have learned from at the At The Crossroads. Whether they are commenting on my work ethic, my finances (I just got my first credit card so that I can start building up my credit), or if it’s simply hearing about UT. I know they genuinely care about me, as they do with all of the students in the program. They have a heart to help young adults, and you see that in their program. They have a job that can only be described as a frustrating reward. It is one of the most frustrating jobs working with us, and thankless most of the time, but I know that when they see the students succeed and get there lives on track that its truly rewarding for them.

The final thing I wanted to point out about my time at the At The Crossroads, which I think was overlooked when I was there, was my awareness of people outside of my world. They had me involved with food kitchens, charity work, raising money for a car wash for children in Africa, and so much more. I didn’t realize it but this carried over when I was out of the program. I have realized the joy of helping others, and recently took part in the “polar bear plunge” hear in Maryland. We raised over 2.5 million dollars for the Special Olympics of Maryland, by jumping into the Chesapeake Bay in January. I also donated over the holidays over 300 dollars in my family’s name to World Vision, a organization that helps bring supplies to third world countries.

All in all, I will never forget my time spent at the At The Crossroads, nor will I ever forget the staff. I have life skills that are helping me succeed in my life in MD. I am seen as a totally new person and owe a lot of thanks to the staff, and Brian, and the program in general. It truly was one of those life changing experiences, and my parents are always amazed at the change they see in me.