Forging a brighter future on a path of struggle
Helaman Hale has never had it easy.
Born in Los Angeles, Calif., to a single mother, Hale witnessed firsthand the difficulties of growing up poor in urban America. When he was 6 years old, his mother was struck by a car and left permanently disabled. While his mother recovered in a hospital bed, Hale was separated from his older brother and sister and placed in foster care. It took three weeks for a distant relative to wade through the congested California foster care system, locate Hale and reunite him with siblings.
After months of recuperation, Hale saw his mother again, but her disability prevented her from going back to work. She was left with no choice but to go on welfare.
A few years later, Los Angeles was rocked by the Rodney King scandal and the subsequent Watts riots, near where Hale and his family lived. His mother decided to return to her native North Dakota to be near family, and the move proved impactful for Hale.
"It was a big change," said Hale.
His family finally landed in New Town on the Fort Berthold Reservation. While the sparse landscape of New Town proved drastically different from the urban sprawl of southern California, Hale found that struggle was inescapable.
Hale saw many of his friends and family fall victim to addiction and drug abuse.
"Seeing people struggling with addiction, drug induced-schizophrenia and severe illness was not unusual for me growing up. It was the norm," said Hale.
Hale moved to Minot and attended Minot State in 2007 but discontinued his studies when his mother died, and his wife divorced him leaving him with three children. Hale suffered himself with addiction and depression but managed to get help through outpatient care.
Hale worked in the oil fields as a roughneck from 2010 to 2014 and did very well for himself, eventually starting his own company and working as a consultant. When the boom went bust, Hale lost his company and decided to go back to school. At first, he planned on studying business but at the last minute decided on addiction studies.
"I want to be on the front lines and help those who are struggling with their addictions," said Hale.
Hale points to his past experience with addiction and growing up poor in the welfare system as motivators for pursuing a career as a drug counselor.
"I couldn't have done this 10 years ago," Hale said. "I wouldn't have had the focus or the experience."
Keeping his future prospects open, Hale likes the idea of returning to the reservation to help those who are facing problems with drug addiction.
"On the reservation, it's an epidemic," Hale exclaimed, "The drugs come in and the morals go out. It's terrible," said Hale.
Hale, who is currently in his junior year at MSU finds the classroom a rewarding experience. He is learning a lot of valuable information he can apply to his future work in the community.
"Wherever I'm needed, that's where I'll be," Hale answered when asked where he sees himself after graduation.