As a teenager, 13-year old Mariah Hainsworth had difficulty expressing herself and shied away from interactions with other youth her age.
“Mariah was very shy. She was never active in anything in school and tended to be a homebody,” recalls Rebecca Hainsworth, Mariah’s grandmother and guardian.
In July 2015, with the help of their advocate at the Family Strengthening Network, Mariah was connected with Center For Family Services’ Family Support Center, a free after-school program for Gloucester County teens that focuses on strengthening the family unit. The program offers counseling, peer leadership training, and educational workshops focused on conflict resolution, anger management, and life skills training.
Naturally, Mariah was very nervous to start the program but once she got to know the other youth enrolled at the Family Support Center she started to feel at home.
“I liked the group aspect of the program when we had the opportunity to talk about our feelings and experiences,” remembers Mariah. “Before coming to the Family Support Center I had trouble expressing myself. The program helped me learn not to be scared to share my feelings.”
In addition to the workshops, youth in the program get to experience weekly field trips to places like Great Adventure and to the beach to go whale watching.
After the 5-month program ended Mariah’s family saw incredible growth in her. Her demeanor had changed dramatically. She is more approachable, make’s eye contact when she speaks, and can’t hide her infectious smile. Even her teachers have noticed a difference in the classroom.
“There was a 100 percent change in her social interactions and how she expresses herself,” says Rebecca, “Now she’s warm, friendly, and helpful.”
Communication between the entire family has improved too.
Recently, Mariah participated in a nursing program at Our Lady of Lourdes where she had the chance to shadow nurses. She loved the experience so much that she wants to pursue a career in nursing. Before the Family Support Center she had no plan or real direction. Now she has discovered she has a heart to serve others.