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Zack and his brother Zane’s passion for basketball is known around the Ranch. Even before they arrived, the fire was lit.
“My mom introduced it to me,” Zack said.
She showed them the game and got them interested in learning to play. From that moment on, the boys were unstoppable.
While living at the Youth Ranches, Zack and Zane got the opportunity to play with the local Junior League Division Boys Ranch basketball team.During the 2019-2020 season, they helped the Ranch win its first championship. Part of that success was attributed to the brothers stepping into leadership roles on their team.
In the 2020-2021 season, Zack and Zane decided to try something new. They had played on the Boys Ranch team for two years, and it was time to move to the next level. They tried out and made the Suwannee Middle School basketball team.
“I knew kids there, so I already had a connection with the teammates and the coach,” Zane explained.
Even though there were a few familiar faces on the SMS team, over the course of the season, the team grew closer as friends.
“On and off the court, we just hang out and have the same interests,” Zane said.
This dynamic between players has produced an exciting experience.
“A lot of it is about chemistry; you know what the person is going to do, so you can all work as a team,” Zack said.
Anticipating each other’s moves is important, but building trust is what really makes the team a success.
“You have to trust your teammates. That’s a big thing,” Zane said. “If they need to talk to me about anything, they can trust me. I’ll be there for them.”
Zack echoed his brother, explaining how a team is there for each other, on and off the court.
“We help each other through emotional times, and we correct each other,” Zack said.
When the team respects one another, it allows leaders to step up and make the team better. Toward the end of a frustrating game, Zane saw an opportunity to correct and encourage his team. By halftime, they were down by 19 points, and Zane stood in front of all the boys and tried to explain what he saw.
“I saw what was wrong,” Zane said. “So I had to tell them and we fixed it as a group.”
The team listened to him, so he followed that up with a pep talk to get everyone pumped for the next quarter. The team went on to catch up and win the game by one point. Another aspect of playing with the SMS team that both boys enjoy is the ability to travel to different games. While the Boys Ranch team gave them the opportunity to learn how to work as a team, it’s the school team that packs up the bus and gives them the opportunity to meet and play basketball with kids from other schools around the state.
Basketball is important to them, so Zack and Zane take their studies seriously. They have to keep their grades up in order to continue playing. Both boys are holding their spots on the A/B honor roll. Zack’s favorite subject is math, and Zane likes math and science, particularly biology. Anyone who plays with them know that Zack and Zane will have their back. Both boys are quick to defend their friends and their team.
“If you’re my friend, I will be there for you,” Zane explained. His brother echoed this sentiment. “I have a lot of sympathy for people. I want them to know they can talk to me,” Zack said.
This compassion is part of the leadership skills they picked up while living at the Ranch. They understand the importance of being there for each other and for the team.
“We have fun off and on the court,” Zane said. “And when it’s time to work, we work and we don’t play around.”
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Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches Receives Lifesaving Equipment Grant Award from Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation
Boys Ranch, Florida – The Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches is better equipped to keep all community members safe thanks to a grant from Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. The $6,641.80 grant will be used to purchase four Powerheart G5 automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and accessories, fulfilling a critical need within the non-profit agency.
“Our goal at the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches is to provide for needy and underprivileged youth from all over the state,” said Youth Ranches President Bill Frye. “At our summer camp programs, this includes having well-trained staff and proper equipment ready for any situation. This grant will help us continue to meet this goal at Camp Sorensen.”
The Powerheart G5 AEDs will be used to equip Camp Sorensen, the summer camp donated to the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches by Robin and Tabitha Sorensen. This equipment will help to better serve the youth and staff at the newly launched program.
The grant was one of 102 Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation awarded to public safety organizations across the country during the most recent grant application period. The 102 grants total more than $2.1 million.
To donate and learn more about Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, visit FirehouseSubsFoundation.org.
ABOUT FIREHOUSE SUBS PUBLIC SAFETY FOUNDATION
In 2005, the Firehouse Subs Founders established the 501(c)(3), non-profit Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. The charity provides funding resources, lifesaving equipment, prevention education, training and disaster relief support to first responders and public safety organizations. Since inception, Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has granted more than $53 million to hometown heroes in 49 states and Puerto Rico.
Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation is honored to be listed as a four-star nonprofit organization by Charity Navigator. Their highest designation. Grant allocations are made possible thanks to the overwhelming support of Firehouse Subs restaurants and generous donors. More than 70% of the funds raised for the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation come from the generosity of Firehouse Subs guests and the restaurant brand. Please consider supporting a Firehouse Subs restaurant near you.
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Since graduating high school last spring, Imyni has been busy adjusting to her new life in the Polk Sheriff’s Charities Scholarship House. She lived at both the Boys Ranch and the Youth Villa before graduating, and her face is familiar to everyone on campus.
“Everyone knows who Imyni is,” she joked.
Not only does the Youth Ranches family know her, they’ve had the privilege of watching her develop into an independent, determined young woman. When Imyni arrived at the Ranches, she wasn’t used to the structured lifestyle that awaited her in a cottage. At home, she was often left to her own devices and as a result she continuously skipped school and fell behind.
“After a while, I realized if I’m going to be here, it’s better than being home. Now I do everything by the book and it all came together,” she said.
While at the Youth Ranches, Imyni was able to catch up and get on track in school. After graduating high school, she moved into the Scholarship House. Part of the agreement for students in the Scholarship House is that they have to maintain a part- or full-time job and attend classes toward a degree or certification. This helps instill a sense of independence and helps them
transition into adult life.
“When I first moved over here,” Imyni remembered, “I was still doing things that we do in the cottage. I’d be in my room by 9. Then after a while, I decided maybe I can try to do things different.”
Now Imyni spends a good bit of her time in the living room of the Scholarship House, working on homework while sitting on the couch or spending time with the other students in the house. While some students struggle with their newfound independence, Imyni embraced the chance to do things her own way.
She was accepted at Polk State College and began taking classes for her AA degree in August 2020. Her career options are undecided, although she knows it’s going to come down to either nursing or early childhood education. In regards to a job, Imyni already had that covered. As a Rancher, she was expected to get a job either on campus orin the community, and this is something that Imyni took very seriously.
“I’ve been working at my current job since I was in 11th grade,” Imyni said. “I’ve been a manager since December of 2019.”
At the beginning, Imyni worked as a cashier and tried to keep her head down and keep up. Then an opportunity presented itself for her to learn how to do different jobs, and she taught herself the necessary skills to continue moving up.
“I’m a visual learner; once I see something, I know how to do it,” she said. “So my boss told me ‘If you can show me that you can show initiative, I want to make you the next manager.’ So I basically just took things into my own hands.”
Since taking online courses with Polk State, Imyni saw the opportunity to work more hours, so she applied and was hired at a second job. She expertly juggles online classes, two jobs, and her life at the Scholarship House. Her mindset centers around a piece of advice she got early on: Don’t look back.
“I can tend to fall on my past. But you can’t worry about the past, it’s only about the future now. So I can move forward and plan ahead.”
While she knows she has the support of the Residential Life Coaches and other students in the Scholarship House, Imyni always makes it a point to try and figure out new things on her own.
“I always try to do things myself; I’ve been like that since I came to the Ranch,” she said. “I earn my own money, got my own car. I don’t like to half-do anything.”
Her determination is evident in everything she does, from her schoolwork to her job. While living at the Scholarship House, Imyni is ready to do everything she can to stay on the path toward a successful future.
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When Malaki arrived at the Boys Ranch six years ago, he wasn’t sure what to expect. After he started getting in trouble at school, his adopted family looked for a solution to help him stay focused and develop better social skills. But Malaki’s past experiences had left him worried about what others would think of him.
“In school, they would call me weird,” Malaki said. “And I started believing it.”
He was afraid being at the Ranch would bring more of the same ridicule he had come to expect from other kids.
“Am I going to be too weird?” he remembers thinking. “Are they going to like me? Are the kids going to respect me?”
Being considered “weird” can simply mean not following the crowd. It can be having different interests or tastes that doesn’t fit the norm. Not long after he came to live at the Ranch, Malaki realized something life-changing:
“I came to find out that most of the kids here are weird,” he said.
Being “weird” doesn’t stop a Rancher from accomplishing their goals. Malaki dove into the culture at the Ranch with enthusiasm, quickly becoming one of the most well-known faces around campus.
Soon he joined the Farm Program, where he participated in the Heifer Program for the last four years. As a younger kid, handling a heifer and getting it ready for the fair was tough work. Now 16-year-old Malaki is a resident expert.
In addition to the Heifer Program, Malaki also competed in wrestling at Suwannee High School and is the County Delegate for the Suwannee 4-H Club and a State District Delegate. The young boy who was worried what others would think about him has become a proud, confident teenager.
“People like it better if you are actually yourself and don’t try to be someone else,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to show your true colors.”
While at the Ranch, Malaki did what all Ranchers are asked to do and applied for a job on campus. He was hired in the Administration Building to clean the offices. Recently, Malaki felt it was time for a change. Even though he enjoyed his time working at the Administration Building, there was a chance for him to try a new challenge.
“I think I was ready for a new change, to see what real jobs and real life work is like,” Malaki said.
He recently applied to a local fast food restaurant and was hired.
It was important to Malaki that he showed a lot of respect to his former employer when he moved on to his new job.
“It’s good to put your two weeks in so they know you’re leaving,” Malaki said. “I said it had been great working with them, but I needed to branch out and had an opportunity to do something new.”
Showing respect is Malaki’s number one priority. Looking back, this piece of advice is the most important thing he has learned since being at the Ranch.
“Respect others, respect yourself, because that will get you far in life,” Malaki said. “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
This attitude is evident in the way Malaki treats his fellow Ranchers, cottage parents, and staff at the Ranch. He is protective of the people who have become his family, and this passion fuels his plans for the future.
“I don’t like people not being able to be there, because I know how it feels to not have someone there,” he said. “The family part of the Ranch is a really big thing in my life.”
Malaki plans to graduate high school and become a doctor. He also would like to start outreach programs for people who need a little help.
“That’s one of the reasons I want to be a doctor,” Malaki explained.
“I plan on opening up hospitals, homeless shelters, orphanages—making sure that kids and families have homes and that they’re not left behind.”
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On paper, Zoey’s story had a ring of familiarity. She was starting to run with a bad crowd, getting into trouble, and failing in school. She and her
family agreed that something needed to change. However, when Zoey arrived at the Youth Ranches, everyone immediately noticed that there was nothing typical about this young woman.
“When I first got here, honestly, I liked it a lot. It was a family.” Even though Zoey was excited about the atmosphere of the Ranch, like most boys and girls who are new to the program, the transition was a little rocky. Zoey moved into the girl’s cottage on campus and had to quickly learn how to navigate different social situations. Sometimes it felt easier just to stay in her room.
“Eventually I started going out and talking to people and going to the different activities,” Zoey said. “I came more out of my shell.”
Once everyone met the real Zoey, it became evident that she was a driven and outgoing person. After sitting down with the teachers at the Donald Ralph Cooke School, they came up with a plan to help Zoey catch up and graduate on time. Zoey jumped at the opportunity, impressing all of her teachers with her intelligence and determination.
“Once I started school at the Ranch, I got ahead. I was always passing with an A/B average, nothing less,” Zoey said. Education is vital to Zoey’s plans for the future.
After graduating a semester early, she was accepted at Polk State College and moved to the Polk Sheriff’s Charities Scholarship House to get started on her AA degree.
“I plan on getting my nursing degree and eventually going to med school to get my cardiac surgery license,” she explained.
This career path might sound daunting to some, but for Zoey, it’s a goal she has carried with her since she was a child.
“Cardiac surgery is a big thing because one of my friends died of cardiac arrest. I want to do better and help people.”
All Zoey needed was a path forward. Her ambition and determination took care of the rest. At the Youth Ranches, she not only got access to educational tools to get ahead, she also got a chance to participate in campus activities like Riding Ranchers.
“I love to be outside and I love riding horses,” she said. “I learned a lot. When you’re just riding with friends, you’re not learning patterns and what to do with a horse if something happens. So there’s definitely a lot of training lessons I learned in the Riding Ranchers.”
As part of the Riding Ranchers, Zoey rode in the Grand Entry Ceremony at the 62nd Annual Boys Ranch Open House and Horse Show. The Riding Ranchers practice for months to memorize and guide their horses through a complex choreographed riding routine.
Another thing that made a big difference in Zoey’s time at the Ranch was the cottage parents and staff who continued to encourage her on her journey.
“The people that took me aside and talked to me—that had a big part in what turned me around,” she said. “I had a lot of big things going for me here.”
With encouragement from the staff and friends she made in her cottage, Zoey continued to improve during her time at the Ranch. She has risen above all expectations and created a solid plan for her future. Her personality shines through everything she does, and she is excited for the opportunities to meet and talk with new people as a college student.
Looking back, Zoey knows she wouldn’t have been able to get this far without them help of the Ranch. Without your support, none of this would be possible! The unique atmosphere of the Youth Ranches, the academic opportunities, and the family of staff that is dedicated to seeing her succeed—all of this helped put Zoey on a path toward a bright future.