A Letter of Praise

 Vice President of Mesabi Academy:

I have somewhat of an unexpected  request. My one on one (Mr. Lenzen) has done a remarkable job since I have been here. I cannot explain how well he does at his job. However, I can say that he is a big part of why I am so successful in my treatment. The people who work on our unit are the people who change lives. I could not have done this without Mr. Lenzen. I do not know you, so I do not how supportive you will be of this letter. But I made a decision that if I am being recognized for my work, then he should be too. He is a great staff and a great person. I am not sure how he can be recognized, but I hope you will possibly find some way to do so. Thank you for reading my letter.


 *Name has been changed to protect privacy.

 Mesabi Success Story


KidsPeace Mesabi Academy in Buhl, MN, is often the last resort for youth who are in trouble with the juvenile justice system. Adolescents are sent to Mesabi Academy for a variety of offenses and emotional and behavioral issues from local and state agencies across the country. One excellent referral source is Dr. William Bruinsma, Executive Director of St. Joseph County, Indiana, Probate Court and Juvenile Justice Center. Dr. Bruinsma is a consummate professional who is always on the cutting edge of best practices, according to Mesabi Program Manager Lance Edminster. “The most impressive thing about Dr. Bruinsma is that he cares deeply about kids and gives them every opportunity to change. He has high expectations for both the programs he refers to and the youth he refers, but he also values the youth he serves and holds them accountable for turning their lives around.” Edminster adds that Dr. Bruinsma definitely practices what he preaches and has follows the progress of the youth under his purview.

Dr. Bruinsma oversees some 1,200 youth in detention a year, with close to 800 more on probation and 35 in the Central Academy, a court-based alternative school and day reporting program. He takes great pride in the youth who succeed. “We tell them they can do better than what they have been doing, and some take it to heart and are grateful for the assistance we provide in terms of resources for them and their families. The Court gives them opportunities to make it and the hope they require to make changes in their behaviors.”

According to Dr. Bruinsma, the Court works hard at matching youth to the treatment facilities that will best meet their needs. He has been referring youth with disruptive behavior disorders, serious aggressive and violent disturbances and sexual difficulties to Mesabi Academy for years, and he is pleased with how well so many of these young men have been turned around by Mesabi staff. “In fact, when placing a youth, I think of whether I would send one of my own sons there if he were in trouble, and Mesabi is definitely a good choice,” Dr. Bruinsma explains. He says that everyone is a partner in each youth’s healing, including the family, the youth, the Mesabi staff and the Court because it takes many people to help a child make such a major change.

Dr. Bruinsma cares very deeply for all of the youth referred by his office and keeps them all in his prayers. He gets more involved in the most difficult cases, and he keeps close track of the progress of these boys in their placements. “I am ecstatic when I hear of a youth’s success, and the best part of my job is when kids and families thank me for placing a boy where he turns himself around,” Dr. Bruinsma says. “I give a lot of credit to providers like Mesabi Academy, which does amazing things with these kids.” He goes on to say that the youth feel love and develop a hope for the future that they did not have before, and this causes them to blossom and grow into strong, lawful, healthy young men.

Mike’s* Story
One of the cases Dr. Bruinsma referred to Mesabi Academy is Mike L.* At 15 he was charged with molesting his little brother, and he was placed by Dr. Bruinsma in Mesabi Academy’s Sex Offender Program. Mike spent more than 9 months in the program and is proud to say that he turned himself around. “While at Mesabi, the main thing I learned is that I was just thinking about myself,” Mike explains. “I didn’t realize how my actions affected other people. I was hiding behind this image of a polite kid who always acted right, but the truth was that I was hurting a great deal inside.”

Mike believes that the greatest transformation he experienced during his treatment was realizing how his actions have a direct effect on those around him. “I really applied what I learned to everything I do.” At first this newfound empathy took him too far in the other direction, and he found himself trying to solve the problems of the other youth in the program. His counselor Ms. Sather helped him to understand that he wasn’t a “superhero” and couldn’t fix all the issues of others; setting a good example was the best thing he could do to help the other youth in his program. “I later found a balance with this and learned that I can help others only after I’ve helped myself; I can’t change their actions but only influence them.”

Mike participated in the “Thinking for a Change” (T4C) program, at Mesabi and believes that it taught him to think things through before acting or reacting to occurrences in his life. “I really wasn’t taking everything into account before I acted,” Mike explains. “T4C taught me to think about all of the consequences of my actions before they occur. I would write T4C on my hand to be a constant reminder to always think things through.”

Mike has several new approaches to living his life. “First I never take anything for granted,” he explains. “I’ve seen kids get locked up for the rest of their lives, and that is scary because it could have been me. I was blessed by being sent to Mesabi where the staff helped me understand that my actions were wrong, and I had to change them to be a positive influence in the community.” Mike also learned to never judge people. “Making wrong choices does not make someone a bad person,” Mike has grown to realize. T4C taught him to think everything through, weigh every decision he makes and think of the consequences and rewards of all of his actions.

Discharged in mid December, Mike returned home to Indiana and to his former high school. He describes how he learned about the importance of education from Ms. Rickettson at Mesabi Academy. “While I was there, she was still in college working on her degree. We would talk about different subjects and get into really deep conversations,” Mike says. “I really respected what she said because she had an open mind about everything and strong morals. This showed me the next level to which college takes you, and I am back in high school and continue to do sports.” Mike has received a scholarship for track and field and will be attending college next year. He wants to study to become a counselor so that he can help people solve their problems in the most healthy manner possible.

When asked to sum up how Mesabi placed him on the right path, Mike explains that the staff always treated him respectfully and like a person, which promoted dignity. They helped him through his transformation and supported him every step of the way. Mike would like to say “Thank you for everything” to the staff who helped him. “Please continue to do what you are doing because you really help kids. I hope my story can help someone else. I would like to try to help and become like the people who helped me. This program needs to be recognized.”

Dr. Bruinsma adds that Mike learned about the importance of education at Mesabi Academy, and this knowledge led to greater confidence and the realization that working hard will help him attain future goals. “Also, Mesabi taught him empathy,” Dr. Bruinsma adds. “It took good people to teach him to empathize, and I give accolades to the Mesabi staff for giving him structure and turning him around.” Thanks to successes like Mike’s, Dr. Bruinsma continues to refer youth to Mesabi Academy and be very satisfied with the results.

*The name has been changed to protect client privacy.

From Referral Sources

“...everyone at the youth’s court is impressed with his progress.”

“You have done a good job with this client; he has done better at Mesabi than anywhere else.”

A PO said that he is impressed with the efforts and time Mesabi Academy is investing in this youth and appreciates the weekly contacts.

Referral source reported being pleased with the idea of having his youth involved in sports and on the basketball team.

“I am impressed with the diagnostic report and how thorough it is.”

“…pleased with individualization of the treatment plan for my client and with his progress.”

County attorney thanked a counselor for the quality of testimony and the answers provided to the judge’s questions.

“I appreciate the effort put forth by your staff to enable a smooth transition for my client to his group home.”

“...Mesabi Academy is the best place for this youth because you do not give up on kids.”

“I am very satisfied with your program and the results achieved by the youth we refer. I have not seen a better run program...”

From Parents

“I am pleased with the family session and the support I feel during and after the session.”

“I am happy that you always return my phone calls and include me in my son’s treatment.”

Letter to court stating: “My son should stay at Mesabi Academy because it is the right place for him. There is good communication, and the staff have worked with him through his tough times.”

“I appreciate the work you have done with my son and the concern your staff has shown for our family...”

“I appreciate that my son is being cared for so well and with such quality treatment.”

“…Thank you to the transportation staff for bringing my son to his uncle’s funeral.”

“We are very thankful for the follow-up and photos from Family Day. We were able to show our son’s brothers that he is well.”

Other Testimonials

A letter was received from Red Lake, MN, HS thanking youth for their letters, pictures and gifts after the school shooting incident.

The captain of an opposing football team wrote: “…I was impressed with the sportsmanship and hustle of the Mesabi Football Team...”

A youth wrote: “I feel good about myself, because I was able to give back to the community that is always giving to us…I learned that I can do anything that I set my mind to…”

A youth wrote: “…Because of my time spent at Mesabi Academy I am a better person. The staff were always available to talk with me, even when I was disrespectful, they listened to me and never gave up caring about me. Look at me now...even with my disabilities, I’m living on my own in my own apartment. I’m able to take care of myself, I have a job and a bright future and I no longer take my freedom for granted...”



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