At the quarterly spring meeting of our Mission Advancement Team, we had the opportunity to help our kitchen staff prepare for the Senior Banquet honoring our high school graduates.
We all pitched in to chop fresh fruit and vegetables, make desserts and serve lunch to our students. Meanwhile, our awesome chefs were preparing steak and baked potatoes while school staff decorated the room for the upcoming celebration.
The Senior Banquet is truly a wonderful experience for our graduates. They invite a table full of family and friends for a delicious meal. Then teachers take turns reading biographies of each student and sharing stories that highlight these great kids. Some stories brought tears to my eyes, some made me laugh, but in all of them, I saw mutual care and respect.
Andrew Meier, our Vocational teacher, highlighted one student who first came to the Ranch as a 5th grader. Eric* is tall and lanky with short strawberry blonde hair and black glasses. He looks like any clean-cut boy from any generation of high school graduates. Mr. Meier did not get into the struggles of Eric's past, but he did tell us why this young man has great opportunities in front of him.
Mr. Meier described a day in shop class. They were studying small engine repair and were working on a weed eater, which is used to trim the grass. After failing to get it started, this well-respected educator declared that the machine was beyond repair. It was then that Eric stepped up and decided to give it a try. After exhausting himself pulling the cord, he concluded, "It's not getting any gas."
Over the next few days, he found parts, made parts out of parts, and got that weed eater running again. Mr. Meier said Eric's motto, "Never give up," will guide him to success throughout his life. I spoke with Eric after the graduation ceremony, congratulated him and told him I believed he had a great life and career ahead of him. He smiled, shook my hand firmly, and said, "I will do my best."
I pray that our graduates, residents...all of us really, take up Eric's motto and attitude—to do your best and never give up. All of us at the Ranch are so proud of this young man.
Chaplain Rick Jones encouraged our grads at chapel this week by letting them know that even in small acts, such as being kind to a friend, they can change the world. They need not fear what comes next because God will guide them. He encouraged each of our graduates to take this knowledge with them wherever they go in life.
Thank you for believing in the children at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. Your generosity, and the generous donations of so many, give our kids the confidence and tools they need to move forward into the next chapter of their lives.
God bless each of you,
Senior Development Officer
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is a Christian residential treatment and educational center for children and their families. We help the most troubled, complicated, and amazing kids by providing best-in-class psychiatric therapy and trauma-informed care, where we look kids in the eye, walk with them, and help them become their best selves.