Tuesday, Aug 23, 2016
Berkshire staff feature: David Gray
David Gray knew Berkshire long before he began working as an Instructional Resource Facilitator (IRF) at its residential treatment center in Canaan, NY. Placed in foster care as a child, the Valatie, NY, native later moved to Berkshire’s Kinderhof Group Home, where he lived until he was seventeen. Gray’s childhood was not without its difficulties, but staff at Berkshire and his supportive foster mother created the network of support that feeds his passion to succeed both as a father and as a mentor to the youth at Berkshire. “I saw living at Kinderhof as a positive thing,” said Gray. “I was self-aware at how great an opportunity it was. I learned how to accept who I am and find alternate ways to handle stress.”
Now, Gray uses his experience and knowledge to engage youth at Berkshire in academics and residential life. As an Intervention Resource Facilitator, he works with youth every day to help them open up about the challenges they face so they can heal and return home to their families and communities. The students on campus learn to trust Gray as someone relatable, who has experienced some of the same things they have.
“I understand where these kids are coming from, and they see that I understand,” said Gray.
“Many staff members at Kinderhof Group Home had big influences on my life, and I want to help kids who are young enough to be influenced, just like they helped me.”
Becoming a father at a young age and supporting a family can be a very real source of anxiety for some young men at Berkshire. At seventeen, Gray raised his son while rising through the ranks on his school’s track team. Getting into trouble with the law after becoming involved in an altercation could have derailed his progress, but Gray chose to take advantage of the opportunity to better himself. He excelled in boxing, swimming, BMX biking and track and field, and worked three jobs to continue providing for his son.
His days were long and exhausting, but that didn’t keep him from doing what he needed to do.
“I would wake up my son every day at 6:00 a.m., take care of him, then walk to school, go to track practice, and then work at a warehouse,” said Gray. Though he received a stack of letters from colleges hoping he would run for them, he chose to stay home to raise his son and his daughter who had been born. A recent accident at the warehouse where he worked left his back injured, causing him to seek out a new job that allowed his injury to heal.
“That’s when I started working at Berkshire,” said Gray. “After a year, I went to college to earn my degree in Architectural Engineering at ITT Technical Institute.”
Gray graduated in 2013 and became the first person in his family to receive a college diploma.
Instead of pursuing a career in architecture, Gray networked with local artists in Columbia County. He later travelled around the United States, modeling for artists and hanging art for gallery showings. Gray even took a trip to France to hang art for a well-known abstract artist and had the opportunity to model while on that trip as well.
Gray recently returned home to Columbia County to work for Berkshire and be closer to his family. He is currently building a playroom for his children, coaching his son’s track team, and motivating them to work hard and put learning first. He built a music studio in his house to get his kids excited about music and to teach them about the craft. Gray also motivates students at Berkshire through the music program he founded. The club will teach students the patience necessary make and produce their own music using the program, Pro Logic, which allows users to mix computer beats and record their own voices. “The ultimate goal for the program is to get enough kids interested and able to produce a piece of music themselves,” said Gray. “If you can imagine it, you can build it.”
Through hard times and great successes, Gray thinks of his two children and pushes forward. “Because of my kids, I have the motivation to make sure they don’t live like I did. I’m all about making things better and not thinking negatively.”