Living at the Youth Ranches often offers the perfect amount of stability for good kids on the wrong path to turn everything around. Replacing negative influences with a traditional family environment inspires them to go with the flow. One benefit of this is that our boys and girls end up genuinely enjoying the family they find at the Youth Ranches.
Takaya had already done her research when she arrived at the Ranch. She had not been going to school at all, and that threatened her ability to graduate. When the Ranch became an option for her, she went online and researched everything she could about how the program worked and what would be expected of her while she was here.
“I thought it was pretty nice,” she remembers. “I was willing to try it.”
The other girls in her cottage were already familiar with the routine, and Takaya didn’t want to get left behind.
“At home, it was just me and my sister, and we both didn’t want to go to school, so we didn’t,” Takaya said. “But here, the other girls were going to school with no issue, so it seemed like I should do that, too. It motivated me.”
Now, Takaya gets up every morning and gets ready for school, knowing she has to hurry to get breakfast before she goes.
“I’m always rushing,” she said, laughing.
When she gets home from school, she grabs a snack from the kitchen before starting on her chores. This normally involves cleaning windows and mowing the grass, but recently the routine has changed.
“Now, because of COVID, we sanitize a lot,” she said. She uses disinfectant spray to wipe down any high-contact surfaces in the house.
After homework and chores, Takaya has time to relax before dinner. Sometimes she grabs a basketball and walks over to the court next to her cottage. Other times she just spends time talking with the other girls.
“It goes by fast because we’re all just chitchatting, and then it’s dinner time.”
After dinner, the cottage family gets together to work on social skills as a group.
Every day a new skill is introduced and they talk about what it looks like to use it effectively. This time devoted to connecting as a family has had a positive effect on Takaya.
“I never really considered anybody family other than my actual family,” Takaya explained, “because I didn’t really have a close bond with other people. But when I came here, it made me open to being close with other people.”
Even as she begins to open up to the family she has found at the Ranch, Takaya maintains a very pronounced sense of independence. When facing a problem, she works hard to find a solution on her own.
“I like to try and do things on my own first, before I ask for help,” she said.
One task that is waiting in the near future for Takaya is getting ready to take the next step into adulthood. She is a senior this year, and after she graduates she is planning on moving to the Polk Sheriff’s Charities Scholarship House and going to college.
“I’m going to keep my priorities straight,” she said.
Her dream career is to be a doctor, but she knows that it will take a lot of work. Living at the Ranch has given Takaya the confidence she needs to work toward a bright future. She’s built strong relationships with her cottage parents and the girls in her cottage, and now she’s ready to take the next step.
“Being at the Ranch gives you the opportunity to grow and learn,” she said.
“You make friends, meet new people, and get help with anything you need.”