Nelson, 25, is majoring in criminal justice and working as a part-time stock clerk at a major record label. When he receives his Associate’s Degree next year, he’ll be the first college graduate in his family. He plans to complete his Bachelor’s and attend law school. Today he’s pursuing his dreams, but ten years ago, his was a very different story.
Nelson was born and raised in New York City. Growing up, he was a good student and had many interests – movies, reading, sports. However, his relationship with his family was troubled, and at age 15 he experienced his first psychiatric break, brought on by mounting stress at home and school. He was hospitalized six times that year.
At 18, after a two-month long hospitalization, he was released to Covenant House. He completed high school – another family first – while living there.
Nelson moved on to a supportive apartment program, but it wasn’t a happy situation. He was much younger than his two roommates, and he felt that the staff didn’t understand how to work with a 19-year old. Additionally, they required him to attend a day treatment program five days a week. Nelson wanted to go to college, but the day program required him to attend groups and classes on daily living skills and self-management; they told him that he wouldn’t be ready to pursue his educational goals for two years. When he refused to attend the program any longer, the residential staff confiscated his keys so that he had to rely on them for access to his room.
In the apartment program, Nelson met Gus, another young adult who was also a member of Fountain House. At Gus’s suggestion, Nelson applied for membership. He was accepted, and three weeks later, he started his first job through the employment program. A year later, he moved into Fountain House housing. In 2008, Nelson enrolled at Borough of Manhattan Community College. He completed his first semester, but due to upheaval in his life and lingering doubts in his own abilities, he took the following year off.
Nelson is now back in school, finishing the spring semester and gearing up for a class this summer. He’s optimistic about his future. When asked about the role Fountain House has played in his success he says, “It’s helped me a lot. I was scared to end up in my 40s and still be dependent, but I’ve worked with a lot of good staff who’ve encouraged me to do positive things with my life and strive beyond my expectations.”