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Busta’s Person of the Week: Kenya Thornton has ‘The Cool Program’

Kenya Thornton, agency director of Community Intervention and Educational Services.

Busta’s Person of the Week: Kenya Thornton has ‘The Cool Program’
February 07
09:39 2020

By Busta Brown

Are you in an unhealthy marriage or relationship? Or, maybe you’re asking yourself, “Why am I always a side piece?” (By the way, that applies to both men and women.) If you’re in this category, you’re not alone. 

“I believe 96% of adults don’t know what a healthy relationship is. So, at Community Intervention and Educational Services, we challenge their thoughts and their beliefs they’ve always had about relationships. And not just romantic relationships, but also family dynamics and how we interact with other people. Ninety-five percent of adults experienced some type of childhood trauma or abuse and it follows them into adulthood,” said Kenya Thornton. 

Thornton is the agency director for Community Intervention and Educational Services, better known in the community as “The Cool Program.” 

Most of their clients are court ordered, but it’s open to the public as well. According to Thornton, clients go through an intensive 26-week course. “We challenge their behaviors on better ways to communicate with their family, partners, and at work. We teach them how to handle their frustration and how to engage their anger. Anger is an emotion, and it’s ok to be angry, but it’s how you handle your anger. The first step is to acknowledge you had some trauma, like sex or mental abuse in your childhood, and the many ways it affects you as an adult. Because you’re hurting inside, you might have road age, an abusive partner or parent. You take your frustrations out on others, because it makes you feel like you’re in control, like a bully does in school. But you’re not in control. Internally, you’re hurting,” said Kenya. 

She also said our boss can come off as mean and hateful, but it’s only because they’re hurting as well. After that statement, I immediately snuck in a quick prayer for our world and local leaders, because this explains their behavior and very poor and selfish decisions. They’re human like us, and hurt like we do. That’s why it’s very important that we no longer view mental health and therapy as something to be ashamed of. 

The Cool Program is a fantastic organization to help us navigate through our frustrations and pain by educating us on how to master and learn how to pick our battles. When you visit, there’s plenty of love and support. It’s a judgment-free zone, and you’re not alone. “We have a licensed therapist that gives you expert advice, but you also have 15-16 people in a group that offers another kind of support system. This is great because you’ll always have someone you can relate to and connect with. And that allows different ideas to flow and gives different ways to challenge you,” said Thornton. They also do couples counseling, but highly recommend that you do individual counseling first, to learn tools that help you better communicate with your partner and family. 

The Cool Program also focuses on justice and advocacy in the community. “We’re in domestic violence court and district court mediation. We provide information to the defendant and give advice on how to approach their legal strategy when they go into the courtroom, because a lot of people don’t know what to do. They will plead guilty, not realizing how it will affect them. We answer questions and navigate them on where they need to be in the courtroom. Whether it’s a child support case, divorce, and so on, we have lawyers come to our facilities to give advice and answer questions, so our clients are better prepared before they enter the courtroom,” Thornton said. 

In honor of a very special lady in her life, Kenya founded a nonprofit organization called Eliza Helping Hands. It focuses on victims of domestic violence and their children. “My grandmother’s name was Eliza Edie Williams and she was a very important component in my life. I wanted to do something that she would have been proud of, so this is a spinoff from The Cool Program. When you have people with domestic violence charges, you gonna have a victim, so we wanted to separate that. We do court mediation, support groups for the victims, we work with safe houses and shelters, and we have a U-Haul truck on our facilities to help the victims move in quickly in situations. We also offer financial planning classes. We work to get victims back in a good place.”

They offer grief counseling to families that lost someone to gang violence and provide a very unique form of therapy for children of domestic violence, “equestrian therapy.” 

“It’s basically horse therapy,” said Thornton. “We take them out to the stable so they can connect with a horse. They’re very emotional and clever animals and they sense all of our different emotions. If the kids are scared, they can sense that and know how to respond. Horses teach the kids confidence, especially if the child has low self-esteem. Because the horse won’t move unless you want them to move and when a child taps into that power and connection, it’s a huge confidence and self-esteem booster. The children love it.” 

Kenya Thornton has a master’s degree in social work and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. There’s a licensed therapist on site as well, so you’re in good hands with Eliza’s Helping Hands. 

For more information, call 336-776-0322 or visit www.pssofnc.com for The Cool Program and www.elizahelpinghands.com for Eliza Helping Hands. 

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