Jackie Fickes.

Project Return - Westport, CT

Project Description

Preston Public Interest Career Fund Recipient

“Most days, I found that it did me well to leave my expectations somewhere by the house’s welcome mat. Learning to do so was one of my first accomplishments at Project Return.”

I quickly realized that at nineteen years old, I barely knew what anger was. These young women harbored anger the likes of which I had never seen in the largely privileged environments in which I had grown up. These were girls who had been hurt, betrayed, and neglected; they had had to defend themselves and develop survival mechanisms to cope with circumstances I couldn’t imagine. Anger wasn’t a character flaw; it was a defense. And so I saw anger, defiance, deviance, and disrespectfulness full-force. Drama and crises unfolded before my eyes. There were many instances where, instead of appreciation for the love and care they received in the group home, the girls showed frustration, hate, and resentfulness.

With the help of Project Return’s truly incredible and inspiring staff, I learned to see past these outward manifestations of deep internal scars. The first step to doing so was realizing that I would be just as angry if my past had resembled any one of the resident’s. I saw that patience and a grain of salt (or two) go a long way, and that making a young woman know that she is respected and that her thoughts and feelings are being heard goes even farther. I learned not to be fazed by outbursts, and I learned how to show that I would still be a shoulder to lean on after the outburst was over.

These lessons, and the relationships I’ve formed with both staff and residents, are worth more than I possibly could have comprehended at the start of this internship. They will be invaluable as I pursue a career in social services—more specifically, in working with people in crisis.

I learned a tremendous amount about what happens behind the scenes of a PASS (Preparing Adults for Self–Sufficiency) group home, the integral role of the Department of Children and Families, and the therapeutic milieu employed in creating a healing environment. On a larger scale, I learned (in a way that no Sociology class, no matter how compelling, could teach me) about race, class, gender, trauma, mental illness, and above all, family.


Project Details

  • Date September 1, 2013
  • Tags 2013, Education, Preston, Social Service, Sophomore, USA
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