* Nevada student finds the path toward turning his life around with the help of Rich Hill Youth Development Center.
By Ben Holman
Nevada Daily Mail
He was having a great time -- partying, stealing and using the money to buy drugs, gasoline and cigarettes. It was a great time -- until he was caught. That's when Seth Dowty's new lease on life began.
In early September, Seth, a sophomore at Nevada High School, and a friend stole $4,000 worth of property from a garage in Nevada. He said that he thought it was a good choice at the time because he didn't care about anything except having fun. He and his friend sold some of the property and used the money to buy gasoline, cigarettes and drugs. The duo thought they had gotten away with the crime but several days after the incident they were arrested and Seth said that he was charged with felony stealing and second degree burglary.
Seth said that he was convicted and sent to the Harrisonville Detention Center where he spent three or four days. He said that even though he only spent a few days there, it was anything but fun.
"You spent 22 hours a day just sitting in your cell. The other two hours you spent one hour eating and one hour on recreation, which was basically a bunch of kids throwing balls around."
Seth said that if he had been required to serve out his sentence at Harrisonville that it's likely nothing in his life would have changed; but, fortunately, he was sent instead to the Rich Hill Youth Development Center. There, the staff and facility programs helped him make the decision to stop using drugs and start focusing on the things that were really important.
When he first arrived at Rich Hill, he was resistant.
"I refused to do anything," Seth said.
Then, one day he had a breakdown and decided that his life needed a change in direction.
His routine at Rich Hill consisted of rising at 6 a.m. to do chores, take showers and eat. Much of the day was taken up by school; but, he said, everything that went on at the facility revolved around treatment. There were "huddles," where students were able to talk about the issues dealt with by each student. Days usually ended at 9 or 10 p.m. with bed time.
During Seth's stay at the youth development center, community service was encouraged. He said that he enjoyed the times when they were able to do community service.
"That was a lot of fun," he said.
Referring to the program as a whole, he added,"It was a great opportunity."
Seth spent five and a half months in the program at Rich Hill and recently returned to Nevada High School to complete his education. He still has a tracker -- a person who visits with him, regularly monitoring his progress -- but Seth says he has no desire to go back to his old lifestyle.
"I was smoking (marijuana) every day and drinking," he said. He said that he used to put his friends before his family and school and came to school high most of the time.
Now he says he realizes that his family is the most important thing in his life and he really focuses on his schoolwork. His teachers say they have noticed a major change in him. Seth says it's finally the real Seth Dowty shining through.
"I'm actually myself at school now," he said.
Seth offered some advice to anyone who might be struggling with problems similar to those he's battled.
"Talk to someone. Your best support is your parents. They are there for you. If you can't talk to your parents, talk to a grandparent a brother or sister or a counselor (at school)," he urged.
Despite his success so far, Seth admits there's been a price to pay for the changes and new choices in his life. He said that while there has been some pressure from his old peer group, he was prepared to deal with that pressure and feels that he has handled it well.
"It's better to cut off old relationships and get a new support group," he said.
He said that he only associates with a few of his old friends and that he is trying to make new friends who don't make the same decisions of his former ones. "I don't have a lot of friends right now."
He said that he doesn't feel concerned that he will slip back into his old lifestyle because he has, "really good support," from his family, the school and the Rich Hill center.
Seth said that he chose to share his story with other students because he was asked to do so by Ranea Schulze, the Nevada R-5 Drug-Free School coordinator. He said that if he could help just one person who was struggling make the decision to change their life, then it will have been a worthwhile effort.
"Seth is a person ... who is on the up-and-up and I believe that he has made a true turn-around in his life and will be able to maintain that," said Schulze.
He said that there is a drug problem at Nevada High School, but many people don't seem to notice it -- or simply don't want to notice it.
Nevertheless, he said that he believes that the school district is doing a good job of trying to combat the problem but that the ultimate decision lies with the individuals.
"No one can make you change," he said, "you've got to decide that on your own."