My name is Annie and I have been a part of ForeverU for about six or seven years. I first heard about ForeverU during high school. At that time, Ryan Hesslau was a year above me and he gave a presentation to our school during our advisory classes. Little did Ryan know; I was only planning on being alive for a few more days. In the Lincoln-Way East auditorium my life changed when I heard Ryan tell us that he cared and that he was there. It was one of the first times someone said that to me, and I believed it. From that day I knew I needed help. I went home and agreed to try therapy and seeing a psychiatrist, and it saved my life. A few years go by and I got in touch with Ryan. I wanted him to know that he saved my life and I wanted to be a part of his idea because I knew it was going to change more than just my life. After many years and many different versions of ForeverU, we are doing it. ForeverU is reaching people and letting them know they are not alone in this life. Mentors and students are working and supporting one another to fight our inner and outer battles together.

I became a mentor during 2015 and Ryan was diligently working on spreading ForeverU to many more people. That next summer we had our first summer camp and I shared my entire story for the first time ever, with a bunch of 15 to 18-year-old strangers. Since then I have been a mentor and member of ForeverU. Being a mentor at ForeverU is one of my favorite things in my life. ForeverU is one of the best parts of my life. And this opportunity helped me realize that I did not want to major in mathematics, but I wanted to become a counselor.

ForeverU has taught me countless lessons over the year; too much to put in one small reflection. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that it is one hundred percent okay to struggle. When I first heard Ryan speak, I was ashamed to admit that I was hurting and that I was battling what I now know is called depression. ForeverU taught me that this battle makes me stronger and that it’s not about what brings us down, but how we work through those things to become a better version of ourselves. I have learned how to be a better mentor. My first year at camp I had no idea what I was doing. I shared my story and figured that Ryan had me share to help but when I was 16, I was not listening to a random person share their life story. But they listened. I remember telling them that I will struggle with my depression forever and that is nothing to be ashamed of. After my story I spoke with a few of the students and one told me that my story saved their life. That day, those words gave my struggle purpose. I knew that I had a lot of work still to do, but the battles were worth it to become who I am today.

I will always be working on my mental health and now I see some of those students as alumni doing the exact same thing. ForeverU created a space where sharing your story and working on yourself is supported and appreciated. No matter what you have been through, the people in ForeverU are there to listen and fight with you. I learned that, the alumni from my first camp learned that, the current students are learning that, and we all deserve to have that support. I would not be alive without Ryan and the ForeverU community. And now because of this organization I have a strong support system I never imagined having. That is why you should get involved with ForeverU, because this organization does not let someone fight alone and these people will always have your back.

To those who believe in and financially support our mission, thank you for allowing me to learn and grow throughout these years. Thank you for letting me make mistakes and become a better person every day. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to live a life I am proud of. Thank you for allowing me to find my passion and my purpose in this world. Thank you for listening to my story.

My name is Nathaniel and I have been a part of the ForeverU family since 2018 following my first summer camp after my junior year in high school. I remember it was the second year they were hosting their summer camp at Trinity Christian College. I had been considering attending Trinity at that time and thought it would be an amazing way to spend a week on the campus, while also using that time to figure out where I wanted to go next in life. But it turned out to be so much more than that! I met the amazing people that were part of ForeverU that week and it truly changed my life for the better. They welcomed me into a supportive community and made me feel like I was one of their own. Amazing people like Ryan, who I got to know personally, helped me feel engaged with the organization even though I lived an hour north from most of the students.

From the different program activities I participated in, ForeverU taught me to be me. Each of the program experiences were powerful and they changed my life. I went into that week scared and feeling alone and I came out feeling empowered, like I could take on the whole world.

In fact, a purpose statement that I wrote at one of ForeverU’s camps still hangs on my wall as an encouragement to keep going. I still remember the reflection night from that particular camp, all of us sitting together and reading our purpose statements by candlelight. How powerful it was to watch people who I had barely known a week before, care so much for me!

But that was not the only part of ForeverU that I have kept with me to this day. ForeverU was also where I learned how to journal effectively. In fact, I filled up 20 full pages just from one of the camps I attended! I was able to find my own unique style that suited me, and I use it to this day.

I would 150% recommend ForeverU to anyone who really wants to see their life changed. I went from not being able to talk in front of people, to loving every bit of it. The community that surrounds this place is authentic. Everything about Ryan and his wonderful organization has changed my life for the better and I would totally go back and tell all my friends about it.

To wrap this up, ForeverU was a life-changing experience that cracked my shell and showed me that I can be loved and cared for by others who started out as strangers and ended up my friends. ForeverU showed me that I don’t have to take things on by myself – I can rely on others to help me through my tough times. I no longer worry about what tomorrow brings because I know I have people who have my back. I now feel free to be myself, someone who I was afraid to show for all these years. To those who believe in our work or financially support our mission, thank you for helping me to find me and to keep being me through this amazing organization.

My name is Ashley and I have been involved with ForeverU since my sophomore year of high school. I am currently a ForeverU Influencer, alumni member, and I was a 2020 summer intern. I got involved with the organization in 2017 after a student from one of the local high schools took his own life.

This led to me wanting to spread awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. When I started my journey with ForeverU, I direct messaged Ryan Hesslau and shared how I wanted to make a change. So, Ryan, my mom, my friend Abby, and I all met up at a Starbucks. After our conversation, I knew right away that I wanted to be part of the mission at ForeverU. I attended their first camp in July of 2017 and that is when my life forever changed. I met some of the best people I will ever know. All the mentors through the years have made such a significant impact on my life and I now have a second family that appreciates me for who I am.

ForeverU has helped me acknowledge that having a hard time and coping with those hard times is essential. Embracing change is also something that I have learned to grow in. Growth is critical through the healing process of anything someone goes through; this makes the person better in my opinion.

I have gained so many opportunities through ForeverU. One of which was providing me with my first internship experience that introduced me to program development, project planning, and allowed me to see the “behind the scenes” at ForeverU.

I was also honored with being selected as a “ForeverU Influencer” which is something that is so important to me. As an influencer, I have the opportunity to participate in a local ForeverU peer group and help support a new generation of students involved with ForeverU.

I’ve come to realize the importance of giving youth access to a supportive community; I experienced it first hand. Knowing that I have a group of people behind me is something that I am forever grateful for. My life has changed so much by being in ForeverU. I have learned that my worth and my mental health is important and that it is valued. I now have people in my life who want me to succeed even when I may push them away. ForeverU has made me a better person and has made me express myself for who I am.

I recommend ForeverU programs because it works for anyone. It creates a safe space for students who may not have that at home, at school, or whatever other situation. ForeverU sets students up to succeed and give them coping skills that will help them later in life. I am still using many of the things I learned in ForeverU to this day.

Disclaimer: ForeverU is classified as a youth development organization. While we work closely with medical professionals and have a passionate team of licensed mental health professionals overseeing our program model, it is crucial to note that our volunteers, employees, and representatives are not medical professionals. We are a community of individuals who are passionate about offering hope and belonging to youth living with a mental health condition. Therefore, ForeverU is and should be utilized as an extension or “add-on” resource to youth receiving formal counseling services from licensed mental health professionals. The information and programs we provide are meant to encourage and support students and is not meant to replace the advice or expertise of medical professionals.

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