“I saw her gain respect for herself, and she found who she was in Christ.”

Before Shelterwood, “it was complete chaos,” Tracie Manriquez says. Yet today, three years since her daughter Kate’s graduation from Shelterwood, the family is transformed. Rafael Manriquez, Kate’s father, points to a simple but profound change: “Before Shelterwood, Kate referred to me as ‘Rafael,’” he says. “Now, she calls me Dad.”

Rafael and Tracie were consumed with worry about Kate’s increasingly reckless behavior. “Our marriage was on the rocks, relationships were ruined, Kate was making bad decisions because she was insecure and did not respect herself,” Tracie says. “Every day was just a battlefield — every day, we were fighting, arguing and worried about what Kate would do. Nothing worked, and she was just getting worse.”

She had fallen in with the wrong crowd and Kate hit her lowest point when she and several other students were arrested. “That was really the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Tracie recalls. “She was dealing with some serious stuff.”

Tracie and Rafael had been looking at programs in California, where they lived, but Kate’s grandmother found Shelterwood. Although it was far from home, Tracie and Rafael knew it was the best option for Kate. “It was perfect. We liked the role Shelterwood had in being both Biblically-based and therapeutic. We applied, they accepted her and within a week of her arrest, she was on her way to Shelterwood,” Tracie says. She and Rafael hired a transport agency because they knew they personally would not have been able to get Kate on an airplane.

Tracie reflects on the day Kate arrived at Shelterwood. “That day was sad. I felt guilt and failure, but I also felt relief. It was the hardest day of my life.”

Slowly but surely, God used Shelterwood to change Kate’s heart. “Kate felt like the other Shelterwood students had a worse family life than what she had. That opened her eyes to realize, wow, she was not alone and she needed to take back control of her life,” Rafael says.

“Her Shelterwood counselor really saw in her that she had a heart for God and needed some direction,” Tracie says. “I saw her gain respect for herself, and she found who she was in Christ. For the first time she felt beautiful. She dove into Bible study and really took hold of that and ran with it.”

Integral to Kate’s healing was the combination of multiple forms of therapy. Kate enjoyed serving on the kitchen staff. “She really embraced that and she felt that she had worth and had something to give back,” Tracie says. She also learned a lot from the ropes course. “The ropes course helped her learn how to depend on others. To be outside and to do something different than she had ever done helped her build confidence.”

Rafael also points to the excellent education Kate received while at Shelterwood. “The education was great,” he says. Kate graduated six months earlier while she was there and she even received help with her college applications while she was at Shelterwood.”

Three years later, the entire family has been transformed. “Our whole family is in a much better place,” Tracie says. “It was hard to trust Kate before, because what she was doing was hurting the family. Today, Kate takes responsibility for her actions, while before it was always the blame game. We have a very strong relationship because of her time at Shelterwood. Several times, she has said, I just want to make you proud. That means so much to us from where we were before.”

Today, Kate enjoys her full-time work as an assistant property manager — and as her relationship with Rafael and Tracie continues to strengthen, Katie is embracing her Shelterwood testimony. “Kate is getting ready to speak at our church about her time at Shelterwood. She hopes to help other girls. She knows she was led through this experience and she wants to help other girls who are struggling with what she has faced.” Read about Kate’s journey from her perspective.

If your teen’s story sounds like Kate’s, Shelterwood can help. Take the first step towards transformation for your whole family. Reach out today: 866.585.8939.

“You cannot put a price on your child’s success.”

 

“July 23, 2015, was the absolute worst day of my life,” says Judge Brent Hall. It was the day he and his wife dropped their daughter Maddie off at Shelterwood. “I cried the entire time I was there. My wife and I cried the entire 500 miles back home from Shelterwood, and we did not talk to each other for days. It was numbing. It was the hardest decision of my life — but looking back on it now, we cannot even begin to count all the good that has come out of it. There has really been a lot of restoration. I would do it all over again.” Judge Hall shares his family’s story of restoration.

Maddie had been a happy child who enjoyed school, until things took a turn for the worst. “Things happened really fast for us,” recalls Judge Hall. In a matter of seasons, his daughter Maddie had changed. “Maddie was completely debilitated, self-harming and giving up on herself. She had a heart to help people, but she did not have a strong self-identity. Once we got through the psychiatric hospitalization, the back at home suicide attempt, the second psychiatric hospitalization and the suspension from school . . . Maddie knew she needed help.”

The family explored many options, looking beyond their home state of Kentucky to programs in Indiana, Georgia and Alabama. “We were calling all of these programs, filling out forms, figuring out finances . . . we did not know which way to turn.”

Navigating insurance and finances was no easy feat, but Judge Hall and his wife were committed to getting Maddie the very best care possible. “We leveraged everything to get Maddie there and through the program.” Ultimately, the decision focused on the people who would be caring for Maddie — “putting your child in the hands of people that love your Lord and love your kid as much as you do.”

The next few months were challenging, with Maddie progressing slowly, but a turning point happened several months into her stay at Shelterwood. “After seeing friends graduate, Maddie decided she was going to invest in the program. She started really seeing herself and her actions, and understanding how they affected not only herself, but others. She started seeing the entire dynamic at Shelterwood.”

Maddie participated in a wide range of therapies at Shelterwood. “From equine therapy to Brain Balance, she did everything we could think of.” The young adult mentors were also key in Maddie’s transformation. “They are just the backbone of the program. They always had Maddie’s back.”

Judge Hall still remembers how important Maddie’s therapist, Kenny DeBlock, was to the whole family’s restoration. “Kenny was a lifesaver. Kenny worked with us to give us different perspectives and a different view of things. We were learning not only where Maddie was, but where Kenny hoped she would go.”

One year after the tearful arrival, Maddie graduated from Shelterwood. “We were scared to death about the transition home. We were scared about any little pitfall,” he says. Yet, Maddie was able to successfully leverage the tools she had gained at Shelterwood. “She had all the tools she needed to deal with adverse influences and triggers in her life.”

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Today, Maddie is thriving. “We have a lot of hope now for Maddie’s future,” Judge Hall says. She is enrolled in college prep and Advanced Placement (AP) courses and wants to pursue a career in the sciences, technology, engineering and math fields. She is an avid and competitive  lacrosse player and even enjoyed time at a space camp recently.

Maddie’s relationships with the rest of the Hall family have transformed beautifully, Judge Hall shares. “There has really been a lot of restoration. I am finally getting to see my three daughters have the relationship I always hoped they would have.”

“Just seeing that she has a future she has defined for herself and a future that God has planned for her — she is excelling beyond anything we could have imagined. You cannot put a price on your child’s success. You cannot put a price on that kind of healing and that kind of restoration. She is doing awesome.”

Why we go to Haiti

Each day at Shelterwood focuses on restoration for our students — but sometimes, the greatest transformation for Shelterwood students happens off campus. Sometimes, the biggest paradigm shift occurs on our Shelterwood mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti.

“I’ve seen our students come alive on this trip,” says Jim Subers, Shelterwood CEO. “Our kids are giving 110% to love and serve Haitian orphans. This is a unique mission trip unlike anything these kids have done before and what happens in this dramatic act of love is transformative for our kids and the orphans.”

This spring marked the ninth trip Shelterwood has taken to Haiti, in partnership with The Global Orphan Project. “We use domestic and foreign mission trips, as well as special retreats, as an opportunity to go after the hearts of our kids. Changing their environment and getting them out of the normal, day-to-day routine is an opportunity for their hearts to be impacted.”

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With the average student spending 11 months at Shelterwood, the twice-yearly Haiti trips provide a unique opportunity for each young person who chooses to go. As they serve and love these orphans, they receive love too. “Our kids experience unconditional love from these orphans,” Jim says. “It is beautiful.”

The goal of the trip is to love the Haitian orphans, spending time with them and playing with them. Jim points to a Bible verse in Matthew 25 — whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me. “When we love on orphans in a very real way, we are loving Jesus,” Jim says. Sharing this love has a life-changing impact on Shelterwood students.

The median income in the United States is $50,000 a year — and that income level represents the top 5% of the world’s population, Jim always explains to Shelterwood students. “When they arrive in Haiti, they’re immediately confronted with this reality. Students begin to reflect on what living in the United States really means, and what responsibilities they have along with this opportunity and privilege.”

The week long trip begins on a Wednesday, with students returning to the United States the following Tuesday. Each day concludes with the group processing the day’s events. “Students get to practice giving a word of encouragement and affirming each other every night. Our kids get to bless one another every day, and this is a highlight of our trip.

On Sunday, students attend a Haitian church service. “We get to watch another culture worship with fervor in what would be oppressive conditions for us in America — no air conditioning, high humidity, flies, hot temperatures. This causes our kids to really reflect . . . these people have nothing, but they are full of joy.”

The group spends their last day seaside, allowing students to experience the contrast in the beauty of the Haitian beach. Monday is the day that students have the opportunity to be baptized. Jim estimates that, over the course of Shelterwood’s nine trips, 50 students have been baptized. Nine students — including Jim’s own son — were baptized on this recent trip.

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“We want to provide the opportunity for young people to have a paradigm shift in their thinking. Many of our students don’t realize how uniquely blessed and privileged they are,” Jim says. “When they go to Haiti, our students come back with a much deeper appreciation for the choices, experiences and opportunities they have. This trip shows students who they are, who they want to be and how very loved they are.”

Heart change and transformation at Shelterwood

As Shelterwood’s Resident Director, every day looks different for B.J. Shay. He oversees policies and procedures in student dorms, helps recruit young adult mentors, works with assistant house directors and more. Central to his work, however, is the chance to witness transformation in the hearts of Shelterwood students.

B.J. knows heart change personally; he experienced a life-changing transformation himself. “I was a troubled teenager and that helps me understand the importance of what we do. It gives me tangible knowledge that kids can change if they desire it. I know it first hand,” he says.

As a teen, B.J. experienced personal tragedy, including loss of people close to him. “It’s clear now that was the root of what was going on,” he explains. As a high school student, he struggled with substance abuse and was defiant to his parents.

He was raised in church, but B.J. stopped being involved. “On my own personal journey, I always knew God was there and that he had a plan, but I didn’t like that plan and I didn’t like him at the time.”

In college, he hit rock bottom — and that was when real transformation occurred. “That experience showed me that there’s nothing you can’t do with God,” he says.

After college, B.J. worked full time in youth ministry as a pastor in Hawaii, then applied to be a mentor at Shelterwood. “Being a mentor was the most significant year of my ministry career. These young adults come together, form a team and build the bonds it takes to help these kids,” he shares.

“The number one thing I think mentors learn is that God doesn’t give up on anybody, no matter what,” B.J. says. “We don’t force these kids to come to faith, and you can’t force them to understand who Jesus is. But we create opportunities for them to experience the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit can experience these kids.”

“The mentors are, in my opinion, the reason why the program works,” he says. “The kids learn how to reach out to people who are positive influences and positive people.”

Since his time as a mentor, B.J. has held every job title in the Shelterwood residential department. Over the years, he’s seen countless stories of transformation, but one stands out.

“We had a student who was good at manipulating others so they’d do what he wanted, although it wasn’t in his best interest,” B.J. recalls. “He was incapable of accepting no.”

But over time, transformation started to occur. “He learned how to value people and how to relate to people,” B.J. says. “He made a big change during the summer session that year, and it was notable growth. He started attending a church intentionally and chose to go to Bible study.”

Change continued as he approached graduation. “He learned to accept the feedback of others and create effective dialogue in his life. He came from a place of manipulation and a heart of deceit to a place of communication and a heart for others.”

Since graduation, he’s done great things. “He’s an incredibly professional young man,” B.J. says, “the kind of person who could literally be the President if he chose to. He has that kind of skill with people.”

Because of stories like these, B.J. points to the faith component at Shelterwood. “The faith component is really important because it helps kids learn WHO they are and WHOSE they are. When kids understand their identity, they’re more able to find self-worth and value and purpose in their life. And that’s when the real change takes place.”