Christopher Penley 1991 - 2006
It was Friday the 13th, 2006. I was teaching the first class of the day filled with 26 students engaged in a lecture, as the door slams open behind me. I turn my back and it is Chris Penly entering the classroom with what we all thought was a real gun. There was not a breath to be heard as he walked up to one of my students and held the gun close to him as he looked out the wide window, lost, was about to walk the halls and find a way to complete his mission, "suicide by cop". Others testified after his death that he had spoken of “suicide by cop”. No one was listening. No 1. complaint of all teens : they do not feel heard. Chris wrote in three note papers found “I have no one to talk to”. This child felt hopeless and alone. This incident cost Chris his life and changed mine forever.
The Adolescent Life Coaching Center was opened in the Memory of Chris Penley with the mission that no teen ever feels unheard. Adults encourage teens to “talk to an adult, find an adult you trust”; but who? Who better than the parent/s? No matter how much time I spent listening to what a teen needed from the parents, what are the things they say that hurts them? I did not need the one listening to this, I need the parents there as they can make a difference like no other.
Then came the Parent/Teen Challenge Day. A Day in which both parents and teen spend a day learning about each other, dancing, playing games and connecting in a way that builds up to an afternoon of a timed dialogue where walls of emotion come down as they each get to feel heard by the other. Many feel that for the first time in years, others for the first time ever. The greatest gift I can give any teen is to facilitate communication with their primary caregiver and give each a taste for what it feels like to feel heard. Inspired by the death of Chris Penley thousands of teens have felt heard by whom matters most.
In memory of Chris Penley , the Adolescent Life Center is committed to the policy
“NO FAMILY WILL EVER BE REFUSED SERVICES BASED ON ABILITY TO PAY”
Frances Boyde M.Ed. Ph.D.