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Former Students

Success Stories

Jolene Reynolds, former Excelsior student, was honored as one of Excelsior's 2010 Triumphant Women at its annual gala. She has triumphed over a series of life events that would cause anyone to question his or her place in life. Now, today, Jolene is helping to save lives, as a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse.

She spent time at Excelsior, and graduated from Excelsior High School and began taking college classes. She graduated with an Associate of Science in Nursing from Glendale Community College in Glendale, Calif. Jolene then became licensed by the state of California as a Registered Nurse.

She graduated from a residency program at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles. Jolene also is beginning to work with high-risk adolescents in a violence and gang prevention mentorship program called the Youth Mentoring Connection. "I have to make sense of events that I went through, and my experiences put me in a very unique position to relate and help kids like me." Jolene and her 10-year-old daughter live in Glendale and Jolene is overjoyed to now be an excellent role model for her daughter. Excelsior Youth Center is proud to name Jolene Reynolds, an Excelsior alumna, one of the 2010 Triumphant Women.

Angela Schneider, former Excelsior student, was honored as one of Excelsior's 2009 Triumphant Women at its annual gala.

"Angela is truly a Triumphant Woman!," says Joan Gabrielson, Excelsior's Executive Director. "She has overcome the challenges of her youth to become a Master's level therapist in San Rafael, California."

In 1995 Angela was placed at Excelsior where she developed insight into the issues that brought her to the Center. In 1996 Angela returned to California with new coping skills and a zest for life. She then graduated from Sobriety High Charter School with a 3.5 grade point average. She continued to work, go to school and to help other teens struggling with substance abuse. Angela is an inspiration to others and has been interviewed on the radio and the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.

With the assistance of the Excelsior Lawton Scholarship program, as well as full time employment while in college, Angela earned her Bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology in 2003. Just two years later, Angela completed her Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology , Marriage and Family Therapy emphasis. In September, Angela married Robert Barkus and she is currently the Program Director for Ohlhoff Outpatient Programs providing alcohol and chemical dependency treatment for adolescents, adults and their families.

Reflections from Former Excelsior Students

Changing girls' lives for over 36 years, Excelsior Youth Center is proud of its accomplishments. What do our former students say? Utilizing our web site at, former clients often write to share their memories. Here are a few excerpts:

Laura, Phoenix, AZ, who left Excelsior in 1996 writes: "I am 28 years old and obtaining my degree in Human Services. Living at Excelsior Youth Center was part of my inspiration to get a degree to help troubled youth. I look forward to helping the diminished, the discouraged and the poor. Thank you for encouraging me!"

Ashley from Santa Cruz, CA, who discharged from Excelsior in 1987 writes: "I am eagerly working toward getting my Master's Degree in traditional Chinese Medicine and Herbology. I have a beautiful 18 year-old daughter who turned into an amazing musician, writer, performer and she's recorded her own music. I am extremely grateful for all the help I got from Excelsior by way of educational scholarships. I was a difficult child. I do believe Excelsior Youth Center helped save me from an early departure from this earth. Now I look forward to giving back by helping others through my education and gifts."

Rose from Chesapeake, Virginia, left Excelsior Youth Center in 1973, the first official year of operation. She writes: " I'm currently married and have two children. When I was in the center, I did not like it. But it grew on you and then you didn't want to go back home. I met friends there and have kept in touch with a few. My best friend from there has since passed away and she was like a big sister. Now and then I think of the counselors who helped me grow and learn. Thank you."

Victoria, 19 years old is living on her own for the first time but near her biological family in eastern Colorado. She's accepting her past, learning how to move on and will attend college hopefully on an Excelsior scholarship. "I want to thank the staff because I know I was not easy to deal with. I was not a kid who liked to share my past but you sat there and gave me someone who would listen. Because of that I can now tell my Mom almost anything and we can really talk. Thank you."

Ayanna who left Excelsior in 1989, is now living in Jonesboro, Georgia. She hopes to graduate in November with a BA in Forensic Psychology with plans to work in either parole or probation with juvenile/adult offenders. "If I can come from nowhere, walk through life crossing mountains, swimming through a sea of difficulty, then ANYONE else can." She said she was a lost soul at Excelsior but her search there helped her to become the woman she is today … mentoring children. "Hopefully, my story will encourage those who have lost hope to feel inspired and motivated."

Susan who left in 1987 writes: "I am married, have three kids, and work in a nursing home. Thank you for all that I learned as child and all of the support I received while there at Excelsior. I think about you all from time to time. I really hope all of the girl in there learn as much as my sister and I did. Thanks again.

Angel, from Arkansas, left Excelsior more than 34 years ago and today is living a happy and healthy life as a mother and grandmother, but her journey wasn't easy. "I am now 50 and have been through a lot since I was the first girl from Alaska to attend Excelsior," Angel said. "Today, I am clean and sober for the first 30 days since age 13. I think of my time at Excelsior often and I would hate to think the course my life would have taken if I hadn't been there."

Takiya, from Dallas, Tex., left Excelsior in 1999. "Excelsior was the best thing that happened to me," Takiya said. "I learned so much about life and that's where I grew up."

Benita, a Florida resident, is a happy mother and thanks Excelsior for helping her when she was in need. "I have so much gratitude to all the staff members who helped me become the responsible, respectful, honest and trustworthy adult that I am," Benita said. "Without the compassion, understanding and yes, the love I received, I sincerely doubt I would be as confidant a woman I am, or a good mother."

Gina from Chicago, Ill., left Excelsior in 1980 and today is a proud mother, a law enforcement 911 operator and owns her own company. "Thanks to the intervention I received at Excelsior, life is now great," Gina said. "I have a daughter who is on the Dean's List in College. I think often of Excelsior and those who helped me. Thank you."

Kathleen from Suffolk, Va., left Excelsior in 1989 and today is a stay-at-home Mother for her three children. "At the time I was at Excelsior Youth Center, I didn't understand what the staff was trying to accomplish with me," Kathleen said. " Now that I have three daughters, two of whom are teenagers, I get the 'tough love' aspect. I honestly don't think the girls at Excelsior appreciate what Excelsior Youth Center is doing for young girls until we either have children of our own or are women who are heads of companies. To have that responsibility over young women is an awesome task and I don't think the staff is thanked enough, so thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Dameka, from Columbus, Ohio, left Excelsior in 1991 and hopes to inspire current Excelsior students to believe that recovery is possible. Today, Dameka is a mother, wife and author of a book called, "What really Happened to Me," by her pen name Mea Fuentez. "My Excelsior therapist made an extraordinary difference in my life after some horrific challenges I had to face. Being at Excelsior was very hard for me but it helped mold me into the woman I am today. I would like the Excelsior girls to understand you can recover and choose a healthier more successful path in life," Dameka said.