Sister Joins Shelterwood Staff Inspired by Brother’s Transformation: Kiley’s Story

God used Shelterwood to change the heart of Kiley Crossland, while her younger brother, Nate, was a student. She came to know the school’s healing power through his journey and her own.

Kiley, the oldest of four siblings, was away at college when Nate enrolled as a Shelterwood student. “Over the course of a few hard years, my parents decided he needed extra care. Although I was at college, I was still super connected to my family and to him,” Kiley remembers. Kiley visited her brother a few times while he was at Shelterwood, and those visits put a desire in her heart to serve as a Big Sister/Mentor one day herself.

“My mom and dad would both say the hardest thing they’ve ever done in their lives was drop Nate off at Shelterwood,” Kiley continues. “But the fruit of that tough love was amazing. Sometimes love forces you to make someone you love uncomfortable, and Nate needed to be uncomfortable to grow. Shelterwood had a huge impact on our whole family.”

What especially struck Kiley was the Life-on-Life Discipleship model at Shelterwood, in which young adult, “Big Brother,” mentors walked alongside Nate. “The mentorship component was so impactful for Nate. Shelterwood intentionally places struggling teens alongside young adult men and women to offer perspective and guidance,” Kiley says. Even after his Shelterwood graduation, Nate’s Big Brothers remained connected, even driving overnight to attend his Eagle Scout ceremony. “These guys just really invested in Nate’s life.”

Fast forward several years — Kiley graduated from The King’s College and was working full-time. She was accepted to law school, then completed a fellowship, but questioned whether law school was the right place for her. “Long-term, I wasn’t sure this was what I wanted to do with my life.” So she did some soul-searching.

“I’d always said that if God opened up a year in my life where I could be a Big Sister/Mentor at Shelterwood, I’d love to take advantage of the opportunity,” Kiley says. Although her background in economics and philosophy didn’t seem like a fit, she applied anyway. “I was so thankful to be accepted.”

To say it was a life-changing year is an understatement, Kiley says. “I don’t think it’s possible to be at Shelterwood for a year and not have it impact your life. It was transformational in so many ways.”

Central to Kiley’s role as a Big Sister/Mentor was daily life with Shelterwood’s teen girls. “Doing life on a daily basis with 30 teenage girls . . . was very impactful. Still today, I continue to reflect on that year and how it’s changed me.”

Of the many ways she grew at Shelterwood, Kiley points first to her perspective on relationships. “The reality is that relationships are long-term commitments. It’s lots of days talking, being supportive and small interactions over the course of time, that’s how trust is built.”

The Shelterwood girls changed Kiley’s life too. “A lot of students arrive at Shelterwood hopeless, trying to understand how to find hope when things are at their worst. They taught me about grace, perseverance and hope.”

In both Nate’s experience and her own, Kiley believes Shelterwood’s program is successful due to its community centered approach. “It’s not just getting teens on track with school, getting the right diagnosis or the right medication, but looking at each teen as a whole person. Shelterwood offers incredible professional counseling, a really strong education component and this passion to see students understand and know the Gospel.”

“At Shelterwood, I saw lives change significantly and for real. The reality is that long-term change is a marathon, not a sprint. Shelterwood is committed to working a longer path with these students,” Kiley says. “There is hope and the Holy Spirit works in people at Shelterwood.”

Substances made me feel invincible

I was stumbling down a path of bad influences

Before I arrived at Shelterwood, I did a lot of “soul-searching” and not in the right ways. I turned to drugs, alcohol, and bad influences to fill me up as a person. I thought that I was discovering myself and substances made me feel invincible, the person I thought I really wanted to be. I started to get into other things like sneaking out, ditching school, and not getting along with my parents. My parents started to catch on to my behavior.

The summer before I arrived at Shelterwood, I left my house because the tension between my parents and me was just too much for me to handle. I left my phone at home and packed my bags. I stayed with one of my friends for the entire summer and couch surfed with nothing on which to survive. My parents contacted me and we made a plan to meet up.

I thought I was going to be able to move back in for the school year but next thing I know, I am saying goodbye to my little sister and driving all the way out to Missouri. I thought my world was crashing down all in one day. I didn’t think my life would go this way and thinking about how out of control I was, it was really scaring me.

There are so many things that I could say impacted me at Shelterwood. The one I most value is learning how to relate to people and just getting to know them on a personal level before I make a judgment. I really benefited from just learning who I was as a person. I set goals for myself and I really figured out what I wanted to do with my future and how I was going to get there.

I left Shelterwood feeling the most confident, happy, and healthy person I really have ever been. My parents and I had some rough patches after I left Shelterwood. But we are starting to learn who we are as people, how we work, and to love beyond the things we can’t change about each other.

I am a strong person now, and I know what I want and how to achieve it. I am so thankful for everything they did for me at Shelterwood. It was a great time to get away and just spend some time to discover who I was. I am so grateful that I got this opportunity.

Chloe S.

Change is a process

Screen Shot 2015 04 09 at 12.25.11 PM 300x199 Change is a processChange is a process, not an event

Do you ever say, “We have already dealt with this, why is he/she still struggling with this?” As parents we crave growth and change so deeply that once we see it displayed, even once, it is really hard to accept when it isn’t immediately repeated. Seeing behavioral growth might even tempt us to get caught up in the success and bring our teen home prematurely. After all, it is really tough to cover the costs of residential care and live so far away from our kids. It is natural to want them home, especially when we see good things happening. But teens that are required to attend treatment tend to demonstrate improved behavior before they have truly changed on the inside. Much like a cake when it is pulled prematurely out of the heat, it will always flop. Change isn’t about making one good choice when everyone is watching. The true mark of growth is when your teen makes the right choice when no one will know. This type of deep character growth that impacts all future decisions is what you should be seeking. So be patient and move through Shelterwood with purpose rather than with reaction. Your teen might return home with a depth that might surprise you.

Good Intentions

Screen Shot 2015 03 03 at 11.53.18 AM Good IntentionsWell here I sit in the airport of Jackson Hole on my way home after a week long vacation. Sadly, instead of spending the week on the world-class slopes of the Jackson Hole ski hill, I spent the week in bed, watching television in tremendous pain from gout. Even a doctor’s visit to my room and a steroid shot in the arm was not enough to mitigate the pain and swelling. Depressed, frustrated and feeling like a failure, I am committed to whatever changes are necessary so that I never experience this pain again.

My motivation is sky high and with study I have learned some really useful tips that will help eliminate my risk of gout attacks in the future. I am going to take control of my life; I am going to get healthy, eat right and get my life in order. My confidence in myself is high until I remember that I said the same things to myself last year when I had the last attack.

My own experience with gout is sadly very similar to what I see in myself as a parent. So full of promise, I think through all of the things I want to do with my son and daughter that will deepen our relationships, but never seem to get on the calendar. As a counselor, I find that parents want all the information on how to end the arguments, cutting, or drug use, but rarely put it into action. Is that you? You, me, and almost everyone else on the planet has the same stupid way of doing this. We want to be done with the pain, so we run out there and learn everything we can about what to do, and then we actually do nothing!

My biggest challenge as a counselor and a gout sufferer is motivation and putting the knowledge that is readily available into action. Sadly, we all have such locked-in ways that our good intentions are never acted upon. That is why I still suffer from gout and maybe you continue to repeat old destructive patterns in your home, only to watch the symptoms of such behaviors come out in your kids.

I know you don’t want to watch your kids struggle just as I don’t want to keep experiencing the pain of gout. And as I sit in my hotel room watching happy people board the chair lift for another run it is hard not to feel like a victim…like this gout attack is happening to me and I have no control of my current situation. In families, this type of self-pity leads us toward even greater fractures in our relationships with our kids and or spouses.

I know I am not a victim of gout, but that I have actually unwittingly been giving myself to gout. Living a gout lifestyle. So what keeps me from changing those wicked gout-giving ways? Maybe the same thing that keeps your family in a bind: Inertia, momentum, misplaced intentions, and maybe a dash of good old-fashioned laziness. So let’s get off our butts and own our issues. Let’s take back control of our lives and make some changes before the intensity of the pain begins to fade into memory and we are tempted to fall back into old habits. I know that if I go back to drinking beer and eating beef I will be right back next year on the floor writhing in pain, crying for Mommy, and swearing that I would do anything to make the pain stop.