By Russell Rankin
Carmelo hasn’t stopped smiling since he arrived at Methodist Children’s Home a little more than a year ago, two days after his 17th birthday. Admitting that mistakes and bad decisions led to him being sent to a youth detention facility, Carmelo said he worked as hard as he could to prove he could be trusted with another chance.
“I made it to the highest step of rehabilitation at the facility,” he said. “There was nothing more for me to do there, so when my case officer told me about the option of going to MCH, I jumped at the opportunity.”
Moving into his home on the Waco campus was better than anything he could have dreamed.
“I was smiling the whole time when I got to MCH,” he said, laughing. “I was so happy to be here. One of the guys in my home told me later he didn’t quite know what to think about me because I was smiling so much. I just knew that MCH was such a blessing! This place is a God-given opportunity for me, a fresh start, a clean slate. I made up my mind the first day that I was going to make the most of this opportunity.”
Carmelo has experienced a new sense of freedom at MCH as he adapted to having his own room in a house full of other boys and participating in events and activities with other youth on campus.
“Carmelo has definitely matured since arriving at MCH,” said Leo McLin, a youth care counselor in Carmelo’s home. “His self-esteem has grown tremendously, and it shows. At one point he didn’t want to go on any outings or go anywhere with youth outside the house. Now he is always wanting to be out and doing things.”
Carmelo said staff at MCH consistently speak positivity into his life and motivate him to be a stronger man.
“They stay on me,” he said with a grin. “They see the potential in me and want me to succeed.”
McLin said Carmelo exhibits compassionate leadership, so much of which is rooted in his determination to overcome his past.
“Some of the other kids complain about their circumstances being here, but they don’t realize the amount of time MCH staff put into teaching us, walking with us, loving us,” Carmelo said. “I’ve been able to share with them about my story and where I’ve been; it really helps open their eyes and helps them appreciate what they have here.”
“He has so many great qualities,” McLin said. “The greatest is that he cares about others. He is always doing things to make someone’s day a little easier.”
Carmelo acknowledged the presence of family in his life, but admitted he only had himself to rely on for years.
“I love my family, but I needed to be motivated for myself,” he said, emphatically patting his chest. “I knew if I wanted to get better, I need to do it for myself, no one else. I have always had a heart of gold, I just found myself in bad situations. I’ve known there is something better for me, and MCH has helped make that clearer.”
Carmelo learns further discipline by holding an off-campus job and looks forward to graduating high school in 2024. He acknowledged MCH has helped him realize he can flourish and achieve great things in the future.
“My plan after graduation is to keep working, be dependable in my job and move up in pay and management responsibilities,” he said. “I’d love to work for a year and then apply to college to study software development.”
Carmelo wanted nothing more than a chance to prove himself. What he received at MCH is so much more.
“MCH taught me that people care,” he said. “They have shown me what love is – I’ve experienced pure agape love from the whole of MCH. I never had that much love and trust from anybody in my life.” •