A couple of moves later, Anthony was stepping foot in public school for the first time, head held high, as a freshman in high school. Anthony quickly garnered a group of friends. From there, his music preferences changed rapidly, he was content with his C average, and he met his first girlfriend. Soon after, Anthony started sneaking out at night to party. Tensions began escalating at home. The Christmas of his sophomore year, Anthony tore his ACL in a snowboarding accident. Bedridden, he faced the reality of his choices. He was stuck in bed, his relationship was falling apart, and he was failing school. Unable to face his failure, he decided to compound the damage. “I would take my mom’s car out without a license. I would vandalize public property. I was just trying to be a little hellion. I didn’t care what people thought of me.”
Anthony’s mother had just sent him away to boarding school in Arizona when she heard about CEM, a much more favorable alternative. Within a couple of weeks, Anthony was touring at CEM. A couple days later, he was moving in.
Anthony arrived with the mindset that if he could prove an outward behavioral change, he could be home again in a few months.
Anthony kept his head down and feigned compliance. Over Christmas break, Anthony got to spend several days with his Uncle Phil, a long-time family friend who also served as a surrogate father to Anthony over the years. When asked about his stay at CEM, Anthony said the Ranch wasn’t for him. Phil responded, “I think that’s the stupidest thing you could ever say.” Taken aback, Anthony responded defensively, “I can do it on my own. I can change on my own,” to which Phil replied, “That’s what a fool says right before he throws his life away.”
Anthony ruminated on Phil’s words the remainder of his break. These words of reproof proved to be life-giving. Though reluctantly, Anthony returned to CEM. This time around he began to observe the interns more closely. He realized that there was no monetary incentive that was keeping them there. He saw that the intern team was comprised of unique individuals who differed in their methods. “The only thing that bound them together was Jesus Christ.”
Not too long after, Anthony was sitting during his personal devotional time and made a little wager with God. He asked for a sign that He would lead him down a positive path in exchange for a life of faithfulness. That day Anthony received word that he could graduate a semester early. It was the sign he had asked for. That night, Anthony committed his life to Christ.
Though change wasn’t immediate, his old desires slowly dissipated. “Now I’ve censored myself to music. I still have [old] song lyrics in my head; I don’t find that thrilling anymore...I was feeding that in my mind everyday…” Music is still an important outlet for Anthony, but now with a redeemed purpose.
Anthony finishes his stay at CEM this month and plans to work locally at High Sierra Outdoor Institute before starting at William Jessup University in the fall. In reflection of his CEM stay, Anthony laughs, “I find it weird that my best friends are 25 year old men.” The student-intern bond is indeed a special one - one that Anthony will carry with him into eternity.
Written by: Zoya Lee