Learning, Adapting and Looking Ahead Helps Student Prepare for Future

April 19, 2022

To be honest, I’m a pretty cool guy. I’m a teaching barn apprentice, I do the school morning announcements two days a week, and I’m a swimmer. If you don’t know me, I’m Markus Goss, a student who likes to keep his status neutral in the social hierarchy known as high school. But I wasn’t always so mature, as with all humans. I punched walls, broke furniture, I broke a vintage Mickey Mouse watch that I could have sold for a hundred dollars in the near future. And once, I punched right through the glass cover for the hutch in my old house. I was eight.

The day program [at Green Chimneys] helped me a little but once I went into residential, things turned around for the better. I had to live with seven other guys in a dorm. Because of the expectations and the environment, I had to adapt. I learned coping skills and I had tons of staff and peers helping me and through it all, I turned out better for it.

If introspection is a sign of growth and maturity, Markus has certainly achieved that. At 17 years old, Markus is a very good student, possesses a wide range of skills, and enjoys strong relationships with peers and staff. Now in his senior year at Green Chimneys School, Markus takes a long view of his experience and is able to look back on memories, moments, and people that helped to shape the person he is today.

Markus arrived at Green Chimneys, 7 years old and struggling with anger. It was a tough start; he had difficulty maintaining himself in class, and sometimes felt scared in his new environment. He shares that it took time for him to understand the impact of his behavior but he slowly learned skills to help him gain some control of his reactions and self-regulate in the moment. “One day in second grade, I was having a hard time. I don’t remember how it happened, but somehow, I started breathing in and out,” Markus recalls. “That’s how I added deep breathing as one of my coping superpowers.”

Forming connections on the farm

Markus also quickly incorporated the Farm & Wildlife Center into his coping skills. Drawn to the animals from the very beginning, Markus recognized that they helped him maintain his calm: “They seem to know when you’re stressed.” A natural animal connection grew into long-term participation in animal care and farm activities, including 40 Learn & Earn farm jobs and more recently, an apprenticeship in the Teaching Barn, an earned position that features a high-level of responsibility and independence.

“This is Markus’ second year as a farm apprentice but he’s been a steady and dependable helper at the farm for much longer. Not only is he a good worker, he’s very empathetic towards the animals,”  says Program Assistant Danielle Powers. “He is responsible and really takes pride in his work at the farm, whether it’s cleaning stalls or helping trim sheep hooves. There’s really nothing he won’t—or can’t—do.”

Embracing residential life and after school programs

Over the years, Markus discovered other skills and activities that served as important outlets. Swimming and basketball became favorite pastimes and through basketball, Markus met one of his greatest influences, Teaching Assistant Gui Martins. Through some old-school shooting hoops and casual coaching, Gui became a trusted adult and mentor to Markus, often providing support and guidance when peer issues arose. “He helped me get physically, mentally and emotionally stronger,” says Markus. “He gave me inspiration, he gave me hope, he was a light that I really needed.”

Deepening a love of writing

“I started working with Markus in his Junior year and I’m convinced all his time in the library helped his writing skills flourish,” recalls Gui. “Markus wrote his own novel, Markoreus The Fallen, and I couldn’t be more proud. He’s an incredibly artistic individual and beyond his amazing novel, he is also a great artist. Markus is constantly improving, always seeking advice, and learning from his mistakes to become the successful young man he’s striving to be.”

Remaining open and looking ahead

According to his social worker Jenna Eckna, Markus has grown the most in his interaction with others, having worked hard to better understand himself and how he engages with peers, and anyone he comes in contact with. “Staff in school and in the dorms have provided amazing support to Markus; the modeling, the consistency, the regular feedback has been very meaningful for him,” says Jenna. “He values it and draws upon it regularly, and he can advocate for himself, asking for help when he needs it.”

The one thing I would tell future residents and students of Green Chimneys is that you have to keep going. Learn all you can and accept the situation, don’t fight it. It’s not that bad. Hang in there and always remember what’s at the end of the rainbow of life, because this time of your life will shape all that will happen when you’re out of this place. Keep doing great things and keep learning and adapting, you’ve got this.

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Through individualized treatment and education, Green Chimneys supports the growth and skill development of children through a therapeutic day school and residential treatment center. Make a difference in the lives of our students and animals with a gift to Green Chimneys