On Sunday, September 30, 2012 Portage Atlantic hosted its annual Recognition Ceremony, celebrating the youth who have completed the residential phase of their drug rehabilitation treatment program this year as well as those who have maintained a positive lifestyle since doing so last year. This year’s ceremony, proudly supported by the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project, featured guest speaker Dan Martell, a successful Moncton-born entrepreneur who, as a youth, struggled with drug abuse and criminal activity before turning his life around at Portage.
In an emotional and inspirational address, Mr. Martell told the graduates about the feelings of rejection and neglect that he endured as a youth and the challenges he faced as a drug addict, which ultimately wound him up in jail. There, he worked diligently to become eligible to serve the remainder of his sentence at Portage Atlantic. Having successfully completed the drug rehabilitation program, Mr. Martell is now a serial technology entrepreneur, angel investor, and public mentor. His story, an inspiration to all in attendance, is a testimony to how Portage helps residents to rebuild their self-confidence in order to succeed and become productive members of society.
The auditorium at Hampton High was filled to the brim with family, friends, and members of the Portage community, all there to celebrate the accomplishments of the forty-three courageous youth who have overcome their substance abuse issues at Portage Atlantic. Each graduate had the chance to address the audience with their own personal message of gratitude as they received their diploma. Many spoke of how Portage has given them the skills and the confidence to take on new challenges and achieve goals for the future that were once unimaginable.
“I almost died,” said Andrew, a Portage graduate who was celebrating his one year anniversary free from drugs at this years’ Recognition Ceremony. Before Portage, Andrew suffered a life of intravenous cocaine use and underage prostitution. “That’s what inspired me to change – you face death and you think ‘I’m not going to make it’…but I did, even though the doctors said I wouldn’t make it to 18. I’m alive.” Andrew is now studying child and youth care at Oulton College and hopes to eventually work for Portage in order to help others that are facing the same challenges that he once did.
Portage Atlantic provides mandatory on-site educational programming for the youth in treatment, and encourages graduates to pursue their studies once they finish the residential program. To this end, post-secondary education bursaries were awarded at the Recognition Ceremony to a select group of graduates for exceptional personal growth and dedication to their future studies.
Pictured above, from left to right: Ron Evans, Portage Atlantic board member, Dan Martell, Portage graduate and guest speaker, Andrew, Portage graduate, and Russell King, Portage Atlantic Chairman