Samantha Bell has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyper-activity disorder (ADHD), boarder line personality disorder (BPD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorders. Samantha wants to share her story to, “Stop the cycle.” Samantha stated, “Teen years are the most critical. When lacking the skills to build relationships and not knowing how to properly interact with other people, failure to succeed is more likely. Without Whytecliff and the staff who worked with me, I would not be alive today. I know there are other kids out there like me, and they need to have the opportunity to change their lives too.”
Prior to attending Whytecliff, Samantha Bell struggled early on in public schools. Her family life was, as she described, “toxic, abusive and an overall bad environment.” In grade seven, Samantha threatened to kill a fellow classmate; she had major sensory issues and was suspended for one week. As time progressed, Samantha’s behavior and academics became worse. In grade nine, she failed all of her classes, was suspended twice that year and chased a girl across the field with a knife. It was during that same school year that Samantha started using drugs.
Home life was a continuous struggle and for a short period of time Samantha lived with a family from figure skating, but that situation was not long-term. After Samantha’s parents divorced, she moved home and started fresh at a new school. The school system essentially ‘pushed’ Samantha through to grade ten, where she attended Cloverdale Learning Center. During her time there, Samantha was bullied which resulted in her threatening other kids. She recalls during this time as well, a teacher calling her stupid and in return, she wrote an alarming essay, bashing the teachers which ultimately got her expelled.
Samantha found herself being rejected from all other educational facilities in the area and quickly started selling drugs to gain a sense of direction. Her boyfriend at the time told her about Whytecliff Agile Learning Centre, and with no other options, Samantha enrolled. The support she received immediately from staff gave her, “the overall confidence to try,” and for the first time she felt she had a place that cared for her. Samantha was living with her father while she attended Whytecliff; he was a drug dealer and forced her to do drug runs throughout the evenings. Even though she would be out until the early hours of the morning, Samantha would wake up and bus from Richmond to Langley.
Still dealing with sensory issues, Samantha one day ran into a group session waving around a large knife towards her classmates. The Whytecliff staff intervened and Samantha faced being suspended. Samantha explained that it was the first time in her entire life that she understood there are consequences for poor actions. Unfortunately at this point, the realization did not fully sink in.
Samantha was caught selling drugs to fellow Whytecliff students. At that moment Samantha was fearful for the abuse she would receive from her parents at home, but the staff kept the information within the school for her safety.
As Samantha entered grade twelve, she began the year excelling in her academics and discovered a passion for cooking; she even obtained a job cooking part time. Unfortunately, she continued to be involved within a negative lifestyle. Samantha was expelled from Whytecliff before Christmas of her graduating year; she attacked a fellow student and was charged with assault on a minor. Samantha learned a hard lesson as she faced criminal probation. She enjoyed being at Whytecliff, she felt safe there. Although expelled, staff checked in with her on a regular basis. They got her a gym pass, and would come out weekly to take her out for lunch and bring her homework. Samantha was able to complete her lesson plans from home and succeeded in graduation. However, due to her assault charge, she was unable to attend the celebration. The staff wanted to give her the opportunity to celebrate and she was able to attend Whytecliff Burnaby’s event, and then the following year with the Langley campus.
Post-graduation, Samantha’s life was not yet on track for success. She continued to live with people in a drug house, and was involved in a home invasion where she was taken with a gun to her head. Although that experience was frightening, she continued to deal drugs. One morning while on a drug run with her boyfriend at the time, her vehicle was hit by a dump truck. Although she was not at fault for the accident, Samantha suffered minor bruising and her boyfriend was severely injured. Again, she went back to the drug house where her boss would consistently abuse her, and he would also abuse his girlfriend who was eight months pregnant. Samantha hit a point where she realized she was no longer safe and left the environment. Samantha’s boss came after her, stole her vehicle and smashed her head repeatedly against a cement floor. It was then that she broke up with her boyfriend, who did not defend her when she needed it.
Samantha left the area in which she was living and cut off completely from the toxic world. For a few months she slept on a friend’s couch. Feeling depressed, she began to smoke a lot of weed which left her with zero motivation to build a new life. She eventually ended up living back with her mother, but continued to deal with depression.
One day a friend Samantha had had from Whytecliff reached out and encouraged Samantha to attend Sprott Shaw Community College. With nothing else going on, Samantha enrolled. The first program she attended left her discouraged as one of the teachers pointed her out in class saying, “This is what a learning disability looks like.” Samantha ran out of class and never looked back. As she sat outside, an instructor from the Community Support Worker program came up to her to see if she was alright. Samantha explained her situation and the instructor encouraged her to instead enroll in the Community Support Worker program. The instructor helped Samantha complete her courses in a way that complemented her learning styles, much like the staff did during her time with Whytecliff.
Samantha successfully graduated from her course, with honours, and is now acting as a live-in nanny. She keeps in touch with her mother, but does not communicate with her father due to his lifestyle. Samantha believes she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and does not want to put added pressure on herself right now. Therefore, she is not seeking full-time employment at this point in her
life. Instead, Samantha wants to give back to the school that gave her so much, Whytecliff Agile Learning Centre. Samantha is volunteering with the foundation to help with community outreach and connection with other alumni.
“Whytecliff opened my eyes to being a real person, with real feelings. It was a safe place to come which also gave me the opportunity to an education when all other doors were closed. The school was the one solid place that kept consistency in my life and encouraged me to be a better person. While at Whytecliff, I was not in a good place. The staff gave me the tools to live a better life, even if I wasn’t ready at the time, I used them eventually. Whytecliff made me feel supported, cared for, well fed and they let me learn in a way that fit my needs. The staff is awesome. There was never any judgment on my lifestyle and they encouraged me to be the best version of myself. I knew that regardless to the chaos in my life, I had a place to come back to each day.” ...