Teen rewarded for her hard work

Fort Frances resident Christine Jensen, 16, recently received a grant from the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies to use to achieve her academic and career goals.
Tina Leimenstoll, who does independence planning at the local Family and Children’s Services office here, is responsible for applying for bursaries for the children in their care.
Leimenstoll and Becky McClain, both Jensen’s family services workers, discuss whose name they would like to submit for various bursaries and grants, and they chose Jensen for the Clark Bursary Fund.
The fund was established in 1989 through a donation made by Ron and Nancy Clark of Caledonia. It is a provincial fund, and every year they are granted to deserving applicants.
Jensen was one of 12 from across Ontario to receive the $750 grant, which she is using to buy a computer.
“I wasn’t even expecting it,” said Jensen, laughing. “I came in here and they were all looking at me, and I was like ‘What, what?’ Then they told me, and I just—I just smiled.”
Jensen was presented with the bursary at FACS last Thursday.
McClain made a speech, painting a picture of the girl she had met only three years before to the girl who she knew today.
“I can honestly say that I feel like a proud parent who wants to let everyone know how special their child is,” said McClain. “I am proud not only because Christine is my client, but because she has also grown to become my friend.”
Sitting there, listening to McClain with tears in her eyes, Jensen looked like any 16-year-old on a special occasion: Happy, surrounded by people who loved her, and dressed up in a skirt—the first skirt she had ever worn in public.
But it’s been a long road for Jensen to get to where she is today.
At 13, she said, she was a very troubled child—using illegal substances, not obeying curfew, and in trouble with the law. So Family and Children’s Services stepped in to help.
It’s now been almost four years since Jensen has been a ward in the care of the Children’s Aid Society, and she no longer is “out of control”—on the contrary, she is a very well-adjusted teen.
Jensen assisted in getting a teen centre up and running in Atikokan. She is just finishing Grade 11 at Fort Frances High School and is on the honour roll. She has a job.
She also maintains a close relationship with her father—all while managing to keep her apartment immaculately clean.
The major turning point came for her last summer when McClain helped her to go away for cognitive therapy in residential treatment.
Jensen had a one-on-one counsellor, a psychiatrist, and other people on-hand to help her. She was hesitant at first, but in hindsight she is very glad she went.
“While I was there, I felt like I wasn’t learning anything,” said Jensen. “It was when I got back that I really felt the impact on my life. Everything changed. I just felt better and I wanted to improve my life.
“I just wanted to show everyone that I can make it,” she added.
McClain and Leimenstoll recently helped Jensen to secure independent living arrangements—they helped her paint, furnish, and decorate the apartment where she now lives with her boyfriend.
“They’re like my parents, basically,” Jensen said of her workers. “They go through a lot for me.”
Now Jensen is talking about post-secondary dreams. She is considering law school to specialize in family law, or social work.
People often tell her that she has gone through a lot in her 16 years, but though she hears if regularly, she jokes, “It doesn’t get old.”
Her life today doesn’t even resemble the one she was leading three years ago, and she says she can’t imagine where she would be without her two workers.
“It would be a dark place,” said Jensen, shaking her head. “I really can’t picture it just because I’m here now and things are going really well for me.”