Calandra Travis is an assistant residential manager at Shelterwood, where she mentors female students and helps the residential managers create a therapeutic house environment. She began as a mentor in August 2017 and stayed on in her new role after her year contract was up.
“My main priority is the girls,” Calandra says. “I still get to go through daily life with the girls and be a mentor to them, but then I also get to step a little into leadership by helping with residential management tasks, meetings and mentor trainings.”
Shelterwood wasn’t Calandra’s original plan. After getting degrees in cross-cultural ministry and Spanish at Oklahoma Baptist University, she expected to go into overseas missions. But a few experiences changed her trajectory: She began volunteering with a ministry that served local teens, and also worked at a nonprofit that paired mentors with young people who were aging out of the foster care system. Then her own cousins were put into foster care and eventually came to live with Calandra’s family.
“It was very eye-opening to hear their stories and know what they’ve gone through,” says Calandra. “It was seeing that perspective that made me really desire to help people who need a support system.”
When she met a recruiter from Shelterwood at a college career fair, she saw her callings collide. She was intrigued by how providing support for girls in need could also be a way to share God’s love.
“There’s something beautiful about walking alongside a person and pursuing them, fighting for them,” Calandra says. “and also recognizing that that’s the same love God has for them, but in a much more perfect way.”
“It’s a privilege.”
One of Calandra’s favorite things about her job is watching the girls she works with transform. She loves being able to look back and see how far they’ve come. Especially after walking alongside them, day after day.
“You get to know their hearts in a really deep way,” Calandra says. “It’s a privilege.”
She also likes sharing her passion for art with Shelterwood students. During most of her shifts, she’ll take the girls to the art studio, where they’ll put on music and work on projects together.
“It creates an environment that allows for conversation,” says Calandra. “It takes the pressure off of the day.”
“It’s exhausting, but it’s beautiful.”
When she reflects on the challenges of serving at Shelterwood, Calandra says it’s difficult to show up and “die to yourself” every single day. When she’s tired, she has to make a choice to keep on being present, consistent and loving.
“It’s choosing to say, ‘I’m going to continue to pursue you, because that’s the type of love Jesus has for you—and I’m here to show you,” Calandra says. “The job requires a lot…It’s exhausting, but it’s beautiful.”
On both the hard and the good days, Calandra finds support in her fellow staff members. She also has regular one-on-one time with the residential managers, where she can learn and process. She recharges by spending time alone in nature and with her family and friends in the area.
“When I came to Shelterwood, I knew that it was where God wanted me to be,” says Calandra. “I didn’t come in with expectations. But it’s been more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.”