Nineteen-year-old Casdyn has excelled in the performing arts practically his entire life. Beyond his work in the theatre, the Tulsan has honed his circus skills, so he can swing on the trapeze and walk the tightrope, among other incredible skills.
Casdyn’s many talents will serve him well as he works towards his dream of one day joining Cirque du Soleil. But, for now, Casdyn, is finishing up high school at a Tulsa alternative school. And he’s living at our Walker Hall transitional housing program, which offers Casdyn a family atmosphere where he’s surrounded by people who care about him. It’s the perfect place to start a new life for young adults who have overcome homelessness, have a serious mental illness and, in some cases, are in transition from state custody or foster care, like Casdyn.
Casdyn spent ages 15 to 18 as a ward of the state, and has been in and out of mental health treatment facilities, but he optimistically says all of his struggles in life have led him to Walker Hall, where he’s building a foundation of life skills he’ll create his colorful and exotic life upon.
“I was not ready for the world,” Casdyn said of exiting the foster youth system. “I did not feel I was ready at all. At Walker Hall, I’ve definitely been working on my mental health, going to therapy and stuff. And I’ve been working on getting used to going out in the community because it’s still anxious for me, but I’ve been doing a lot better since I first moved in.”
The big news for Casdyn is that he, along with seven other Walker Hall tenants, recently completed a twice-a-week life skills program that lasted two months. Led by Pastor Toni F. Washington, the secular “About Life Skills” program found Walker Hall participants learning about managing finances, principles of ethical and social behavior, philosophy of character, and stress management, among other lessons.
“I think the greatest thing I learned was about the positive side of conflict,” Casdyn said. “Most people think conflict is bad. I personally try to use as much communication as possible to always avoid conflict. Then the life skills group came through and taught us that without conflict there is no advancement. If you avoid conflict then you never really improve. The exact title of that section was “The Positive Energy of Conflict.” That’s the No. 1 thing that stuck out for me.
“Plus, I was able to open up about some of the stuff that I’ve been through and learning how to properly think and feel about things,” Casdyn continued. “This group has helped me to deal with some of the problems that I’ve had about my past and trauma. If you just go and give it a chance it’s really worth it. It’s life-changing.”
Casdyn did so well during the training that he received the Outstanding Award during the program’s recent graduation ceremony attended by some 100 people.
“Getting the Outstanding Award totally caught me off guard,” Casdyn said. “I was asked to say a few words, so I was trying not to cry because I was kind of sad that the group was over. The teachers are very wise and they’re very loving, which I haven’t really had a lot of in my life, so I kind of looked up to them as mentors. But they are gonna keep in contact and visit Walker Hall so it’s not like I’m never going to see them again.”
As Casdyn continues building on his new life skills, he actually just landed a job helping clean his high school. In addition, he’s getting ready for his upcoming high school graduation ceremony. There will be plenty of celebrating on that day. He may even bake his specialty — ornate and delicious cupcakes — for his fellow Walker Hall tenants.
“I’ll take it very seriously,” Casdyn said with a smile. “I’ll use black icing because it’s really formal and pair it with white icing because it represents hope.”