She is natural leader with a gift for encouragement and a strong faith. Though Alena hasn’t always had that mindset, “When I first started at By The Hand, I was used to a lot of drama and chaos in my life. That was the energy I was used to.” It took time to build the trust that allowed her to experience calm and care at BTH.

Alena recalls, “At first, I was reactive and destructive. I didn’t know how to control my big emotions.” But she started to believe that the leaders and coaches wanted good for her life. They were there for her, day after day, week after week. She felt wanted. “At By The Hand, I could understand how I was feeling and what was happening inside me.” She discovered that the things she takes in–things like media content, the words of others, and food–have a huge effect on how she feels. “Those were things I had some say in.” It became easier for Alena to practice the new skills she was learning to help her manage big waves of feelings. “I learned I could pray, use breathing techniques, I could stretch, think it through, walk away. These things help my awareness of myself and others. It helps me be more kind.”

As Alena grew her skills, she didn’t want to shrink her personality. Thankfully, she had the right example at the right time. “Mr. Lawrence showed me I could still be my full self. He has a big, loud energy. He is uplifting and energetic. He was always being himself.” That was what Alena needed to see. As a student who learns by observing, watching Mr. Lawrence express himself confidently and consistently gave Alena the permission to do the same. “He told me it’s okay to big and to be extra. It’s okay to take up my space. t’s not my job to worry that some people chose to stay basic. That is not my worry.” It really hit her one afternoon when Mr. Lawrence was praying for the students. “I remember, he prayed, ‘Father God, help these young men and women know they are adored.’ And that stuck with me. I could express myself. I didn’t have to try to be what someone else might want me to be. I should be who I am.”

Alena’s confidence in herself continues to grow. She is committed to doing the inner work that creates outer change. And she feels free to lean into the help that is all around her.