What It Means To Work At Hanna

My name is Brad La Bass and I came to Hanna in 2004 fresh out of finishing college at the University of Santa Cruz—newly minted with a Psychology Degree—and no idea what I was getting myself into by joining the Hanna family. Since then I have worked at here as a Youth Counselor, Group Home Supervisor, Caseworker, and in the Follow-On department.

For nearly 13 years I’ve worked closely with some of the most courageous, determined, resilient, and amazingly-challenging-yet-fantastically hilarious young men one could ask to know. I’ve also worked alongside many folks who have given the greater part of their lives towards helping our boys regain their confidence and envision a healthier future.

A few months after coming to Hanna I realized how hard and emotionally challenging it was to work with young men who have experienced high levels of trauma. So many of our boys have gone through tragedy after tragedy, experiencing high levels of childhood adversity, and then finding themselves failing to manage their lives at home and in school.

Our boys often come to us without any self-confidence, and hold a deeply negative outlook on life. I learned during my initial months at Hanna that these boy’s had developed highly acute skills in assessing their environments, adopting heightened sensitivity and responses to how they are treated, leading to repeating negative behavior and decision-making. This is where Hanna’s strengths come in. Hanna provides all the conditions and support necessary for boys to regain confidence in school and begin to rebuild their relationships at home and in their communities.

One of my early mentors at Hanna, Rob Thomas, always preached “be firm, fair, balanced, and calm.” I would add you need to have genuine care for working with these boys, be authentic, humble, caring, and creative in your interactions with them. These traits are key foundations for developing successful connections. To this day I still hear Rob’s words echoing in my head when I’m working with our boys.

I’ve held the title of Admissions Coordinator since January 2015, and so now I get the privilege of introducing each boy and his family to Hanna through the initial campus tour. Every day I receive phone calls, emails, and meet with families who express their despair owing to their circumstances. Most commonly—and as a stark reminder of many family’s lives across the country—single mothers contact me saying their son doesn’t have a father figure in their life due to physical abuse, addiction issues, abandonment, or imprisonment. I also sit with fathers who show great concern for their boys, not being able to connect with or reach them emotionally. Every day I hear about family’s traumatic experiences, which nobody should have to endure, and I’m truly grateful and humbled to work at a place like Hanna where families can begin to receive the support and guidance they deserve.

The initial campus tour at Hanna is often the point when a boy realizes Hanna is a place for a fresh start—and not a lock-down hardened facility with padded rooms! It’s also the time when most parents try to sign themselves up to come to Hanna! Understandably most boys are initially against coming to Hanna for a tour and it usually takes a few tries by their parents or guardians to get them here. However, once a boy arrives for a tour it’s amazing to watch their body language, eye contact, and moods change as they begin to understand what Hanna could provide for them.

I would encourage any boy, family member or guardian to contact me to discuss how Hanna can be of assistance. We accept boys all year round if we have beds open, however we do generally have a waiting list, so the earlier you start the process the better. Typically, June is the month with the most openings, as our seniors graduate and move forward with their lives.

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