BROOKLYN PARK, Minn – Inside the walls of Brooklyn Park's Treehouse, Bianca Ramirez finally found a window, one that moved her from darkness to light.
"I didn't feel like I belonged in this world. I didn't feel like I mattered," said Ramirez.
That was before she found the non-profit organization serving troubled teens across the Twin Cities.
Today, she has a brighter view.
"Now I tell myself what Treehouse tells me: I am lovable, I am capable, I am worthwhile," she said.
Ramirez is among more than 70 teens graduating from the program and high school in 2014. Treehouse honored these graduates in a celebration the evening of July 22nd with KARE 11 anchor Julie Nelson emceeing the ceremony.
Ramirez, 18, found the Treehouse Brooklyn Park location in early high school after struggling with a severe cutting addiction and eating disorder. The destructive behaviors followed an abusive childhood and became pervasive in her teenage years. She says hospitalizations and treatment programs failed until a friend encouraged her to try Treehouse.
"I remember coming here, I had a suicide plan that I wasn't going to live long, and now I have a future and a plan and a career in mind that I want," said Ramirez.
Senior Director and trainer Scott Volltrauer says the program is peer driven, but teaches teens life skills from conflict and anger management, to effective communication, honesty, integrity and friendship. Moreover, he says, the program embraces spirituality and encourages teens to look deeper within themselves.
"To convince them on some level that their voice matters," said Volltrauer. "We want to cast that vision in kids they are more than the sum total of who they have been. There is a future that can be incredibly bright and beneficial."
Ramirez has found her future, not only graduating from Park Center High School, but she's attending North Hennepin Community College in the fall, and plans to transfer to Boston University to study psychology. She hopes to someday help other teens with similar struggles.
"For the first time I made the B honor roll. I remember walking into the stadium with my cap and gown thinking I would never live through this moment," said Ramirez. "Treehouse was there for the journey and they were there for the lowest of lows, and now they are here for the highest of highs."
Treehouse started in 1984 and has grown to eight locations in the suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul, serving 1800 teens annually.