Reclaiming “Unsalvageable” Kids

William Perry & Larry K. Brendtro

This story began at Starr Commonwealth, a residential school for troubled youth in Michigan. Larry Brendtro was successor to school’s founder Floyd Starr who was first to express the well-known motto, “There is no such thing as a bad boy.” It was there that Brendtro would meet Bill Perry—co-author of this article. Bill was trying his best to be the worst kid possible. Flash forward several decades to the present when an e-mail from Bill Perry arrived at the speaker’s bureau website on which Brendtro was listed:   

I don’t know if Dr. Brendtro will remember me. I was an incorrigible, unsalvageable, 15-year-old juvenile delinquent from Canada sent to Starr Commonwealth in 1968. I stayed for 21 months. 

I got into a remarkable amount of criminal activity while on the run from Starr. In spite of my crimes, all I got was forgiveness, especially from Dr. Brendtro. Forgiveness, not punishment, rehabilitated me. I broke the cycle of generational recidivism in my family, went on to university and a career of remarkable achievements, and some disappointment, like a normal person. I am proud of my two children who are also graduates and gainfully employed.

Please thank Dr. Brendtro for me. I especially remember him talking to me when I received a concussion from a staff person I hit and insulted. The good Dr. visited me while I was recovering in the infirmary, and his pep talk was unforgettable. He assured me that I would grow into a normal sized man, (I was less than 5 ft. tall), my voice would drop, (I still talked like a girl) and that I had potential. It would all come true. How did he know?

Click here for the complete article which recounts Bill’s journey and highlights essential strategies for helping young people transform trauma into resilience.    

We are pleased to introduce our new one-day training, 6 Keys to Thriving! A goal of any school or program with a healthy culture is to promote resilient and responsible behavior, not only in the young people they serve, but also for staff tasked with providing those services. Join us at an upcoming session: 
Aug. 24, Erie, PA
Aug. 24, Fairmont, WV
Aug. 25, Pittsburgh, PA