Bad Ass of the week: Emily Rose

Emily-FREE PUSSY RIOT

Supporting, guiding and counseling Oakland’s youth working with an **“Adolescent treatment program” here in Oakland, this battle axe shares a truly inspiring story of how she got there and why it’s truly a miracle she’s alive…

**Side Note: Due to recent merger, name of treatment center not provided at this time

Born in San Diego 1981, this miracle of life was born missing her right ventricle and tricuspid valve. She lived through TWO open heart surgeries by the age of two. Doctors told her she would need a heart transplant by the age of 25. Here she is at 32, goin’ strong without it and beating the heavy odds set against her from the start. Somehow she has been saved by the perforations in the lining between the walls of the left and what would be her right ventricle (if she had one) somehow providing enough oxygen to her blood to survive.

Despite having won this battle, she had yet to begin fighting her war.

At the age of 17, she was sent to a boarding school in Thompson Falls, Montana.

It was really difficult for my parents to find a school that would accept me as I was high risk for them due to my medical history and potential vulnerability. They eventually built a relationship with the boarding school my sister had been attending in the CZ RP, and I was accepted and sent away 6 days before Christmas. Needless to say I was angry when I got to “Spring Creek Lodge Academy” I was an angry 17 year old acting like an immature 15 year old. I grew close with my “Destiny Family”. I was in a group of 20 other young, angry girls who felt taken away from family with no home to go to when it was “all over”. It was definitely crazy sometimes, but we all got through that time together. The staff working there was incredibly supportive and continued to be even after moving on. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life and it has forever changed me for the better.”

She was there for about 13 months and when it was time to leave and Emily had nowhere to go, her case worker Amy took her in. As fate would have it this saving grace didn’t last long, as Amy quickly went through struggles of her own. Amy quite suddenly had a prematurely born baby that required all of her efforts. Emily had to find her footing quickly. Finding support through a program leader at “Spring Creek” where she had just spent the last year of her life, she got a chance and found a job as a counselor.

Cameron took a big risk training and hiring an ex-student/ program attendee that was considered “difficult”. (haha) Through his instruction I became “Mat Trained” meaning that I was qualified to correctly and safely restrain someone when they are posing a risk to themselves or others under extreme duress or in potentially violent situations. It was a daily challenge and the time I spent there contributed to shaping the person I am today. I was a counselor at “Spring Creek” for two years and would have stayed longer, but doctors discovered that the altitude in Montana had been weakening my heart and I had to relocate somewhere at sea level if I wanted to live.”

I honestly can’t imagine having to consider the health and safety of my heart when deciding where to live. It reminds me how fortunate I am that my biggest concern when moving is the neighborhood, the size of the kitchen, etc. Most of us can go anywhere we want. Emily has to consider altitude and can’t live anywhere above sea level. She certainly hasn’t let it keep her down, she came back to California and started conquering her next battles in Chico.

I got to Chico and started working at a record store. I was also volunteering with “The Peace and Justice Center”. That was a great program, but a few months in I showed up with a black eye from a fight I had inadvertently gotten into with another girl and they didn’t feel that was “very peaceful” of me. I mean, I strive for peace and harmony, but if someone is comin’ at me, I will do something about it. Ah well, I got out of Chico and made the move to Berkeley where I started working at Amoeba and stayed there for seven years. It was through a co-worker at Amoeba that I heard about the  program I’m currently with looking for counselors.”

She applied not knowing what to expect; having a resume that showed her experience as a counselor at “Spring Creek” in Montana, but otherwise had record store extraordinaire experience that didn’t apply to this field. That didn’t stop her. She applied and nailed two interviews discussing not only her personal experience having gone through programs such as these as well as her two years of hard earned experience in Montana.

The fact that I had REAL hands on, personal experience and insights that others usually don’t was a big factor in their taking me on, I think. While interviewing they were interested in my experiences and what my journey has been like; how it relates to effectively communicating with these kids in their times of need. It’s an understanding that these kids are still surviving what they’re going through. You’re helping guide them in the right direction and cope with their realities while they strive to empower themselves and never give up. I like to focus on what I affectionately think of as the “Bukowskis” of the world. Those who have in a sense, fallen through the cracks like I did.”

After just a year and a half with her current “Adolescent Treatment Program”, she was promoted to Shift Lead from “Recovery Counselor”.  She started working with the girl’s unit and after what she describes as a bit of a difficult transition into leading the boy’s group, everybody is slowing moving forward together and making progress.  On an average work day, Emily is with her kids (ages 13-18) from 7:30am-11pm. Even when she isn’t working her staff and kids know they can call her for support 24 hours a day. Shit, just during the time we spent talking, two different people called her needing her guidance and tough love. It’s really incredible; the way she talks about her chosen career and the kids she helps is rather awe inspiring.

As my friend/co-worker once said, “We’re planting seeds and someone along the way is going to water them” That’s a pretty great way to sum it all up. Kids that have really seen the cruelties of the world by a certain age and are in programs such as this really make you earn their trust. I mean, I’ve been there and I get it. It’s kind of like, “Who the fuck are you? What makes you different from all the other people who were supposed to care about me that left or gave-up?” They come at you from all directions it feels like at times. It’s certainly not always easy, but you have to stay strong, you know? You can’t Flinch.”

Did I mention she’s also a student? I’m almost convinced she’s secretly cloned herself. It boggles my mind that one person could work that hard and give so much of themselves for others and still find the time and a way to be good to herself. When she finds a moment to breathe, she spends most her time with Turtle her handsome, regal, bulldog and her grandmother as often as she can see her. When she can find time to hang with friends, she’d rather stay in and have some conversation over a few beers with a record playing in the background rather than go to a party. When I told Emily her staff and kids are lucky to have her, she disagreed. “I’m so fucking grateful. I’m lucky to have them”. Just another reason Emily Rose is Bad Ass in every way.

 

We should be aware that these types of programs and treatment centers are already scarce and more are shutting down. Oakland’s children need your help to keep these resources available.

If you or someone you know would benefit from these types of resources, below is a link to start the search for a treatment center near you in Oakland:

http://www.california-rehab-directory.com/

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