Graduation highlights teens’ efforts to turn lives around
EVERETT - Without Cocoon House, he didn’t think he’d be drug-free and have his own apartment today. She didn’t think she’d have the confidence and support to be on track to go to a four-year university.
Larry Murphy and Jessica Bryant are two of the 50 teens and young adults whose accomplishments will be celebrated at next week’s Cocoon House Butterfly Graduation.
The graduation is free and open to the public. It will be at noon Wednesday, March 21 at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center in Comcast Arena. Reservations are required; to RSVP, e-mail: email@example.com or call 425-259-3342. Registration at the door opens at 11:30 a.m. Donations are requested.
Murphy was couch surfing and doing drugs before he entered a Cocoon House shelter in Monroe two years ago.
“I wouldn’t be here without Cocoon House,” Murphy said reflecting about where life took him. He’s been clean from drugs for 15 months now.
Now 20, Murphy found transitional housing and then got help to get his own apartment. He met an advocate named Julio who worked with Murphy to turn his life around. He can call Julio anytime he needs help.
“I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here without Julio’s help,” Murphy said.
In Bryant’s case, Elysa and Loretta helped her get her life back on track.
Murphy found an apartment near Everett Community College. He will be studying studio arts and welding.
Born in Guam and ending up in Washington state, Murphy is working to handle his own college tuition. Through Cocoon House, he knows how to manage his money, how to cook and how to live independently.
“I never thought I’d have my own place,” Murphy said.
The annual graduation ceremony celebrates the milestones of the young people who come to Cocoon House. Medals are given out for being sober, going to college and living on their own.
“It’s an opportunity for the community and the people who support Cocoon House to recognize the achievements,” said Jen Chwalibog, the nonprofit’s director of development and community services.
This is the 15th annual Butterfly Graduation. The idea of a butterfly’s metamorphosis is painted on the outside walls of the nonprofit’s main center in Everett.
Cocoon House teens can “graduate” multiple times, receiving medals for steps they accomplish along their path of personal progress. Both Bryant and Murphy received medals last year.
“It’s been a long road, but I’m really proud of where I’ve gotten,” Murphy said, adding, “I’m more responsible for the things I do.”
Over time, Murphy and Bryant met and did street outreach work together.
The two feed off each other easily in conversation, able to give quick replies to silly topics. They also consider each other part of their support network built through Cocoon House.
Both are peer mentors with the Cocoon House U-Turn Program, which offers a drop-in resource center for teens.
They spend time walking the streets searching for homeless and at-risk teens, handing out supplies and cards for Cocoon House.
Bryant is the first of her siblings to graduate high school, receiving a 2.7 grade-point average. Her brothers and sister dropped out and had children. Bryant didn’t want that same fate.
Working with advocates at Cocoon House gave Bryant the self-confidence to reflect on her accomplishments.
“I feel like I’m more confident in myself,” Bryant said, adding, “It’s a good feeling.”
She can call up Elysa, Murphy and others whenever she needs to talk.
“I have a cheerleading team right now,” Bryant said.
Bryant is getting her associate degree in Foreign Language at EvCC. This fall, she’ll go to Western Oregon University near Salem for a bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language to eventually become an interpreter.
Cocoon House helps at-risk teens and runaways. The nonprofit focuses on preventing teens from permanently leaving home, housing teens through emergency and temporary shelter and teaching life skills to teens.
More than 75 percent of the teens who come to Cocoon House do not end up in shelters. The goal is to get them back home, Chwalibog said. Advocates work with parents to help the teens.
Cocoon House runs a resource center and shelters in Everett, Arlington and Monroe.
By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published March 14, 2012