Earlier this summer we shared a story about seeds planted at the Ranch—seeds of confidence, faith, love, trust and forgiveness. Slowly growing and maturing over the years, and by slowly we mean sometimes it feels like watching paint dry, we anticipate moments when we see students exhibit the character we model and teach. We’re working to root core values—like collaboration, listening and respect—into the hearts and minds of our students in our Next Steps programming. In these last weeks of summer, we’ve been privileged to witness the fruit born of seeds planted years ago. This is Aisha’s story.
Aisha first set foot on the Ranch as an eight-year-old elementary student. She looked forward to walking in her older sibling’s footsteps experiencing fun activities at the Ranch. But when she arrived, it was not a smooth transition for Aisha. Difficult, stubborn and unaccustomed to following direction, Aisha caused problems within her team and for her leaders.
Aisha’s behavior didn’t comply with rules we have at the Ranch to keeps our students safe. Years ago, upon seeing Aisha’s name on the list of ranchers, a staff member commented, “I’ve never seen a good week when Aisha is here.” She was the student our staff didn’t want on their rancher list. One summer, she decided to purposely get lost in the woods, running away from a capture the flag game. Our staff quickly found her but due to consistently poor behavior, Aisha was sent home many consecutive summers.
A TURNING POINT
Over the years, Aisha came to understand Ranch expectations and she met the bar we set. We celebrated with her when she went a whole week without being sent home. Then one summer, she bonded with a staff member and with trust established, opened up about her family life: her dad was angry, abusive and mostly absent. A few summers later she decided to take her faith more seriously and asked Jesus into her heart. She shared with us recently that she was baptized at church this past spring.
Aisha has slowly grown and matured as the seeds planted in her have been watered and tended. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” We are reminded of this passage in scripture (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) on a daily basis here at the Ranch—what an incredible privilege it is for our team to partner with God on this mission.
This year, Aisha returned as a young leader. A natural, confident and bold leader, she served our younger ranchers with joy. Rather than leading others toward negative behavior as she has in the past, she modeled our core values for younger students. Aisha even had some heart-to-hearts with ranchers who struggled.
“I’m thankful to be at the Ranch,” she told one of our staff members. “I’d rather be here in a safe community than at home.” Even though Aisha said she’d rather be at the Ranch, she said she’s also excited to return home to help bring change to her community. “I want to bring hope to my friends.” At the Ranch, our tagline is “Breaking Cycles. Building Leaders. Transforming Communities.” Aisha is a testament to these words. We look forward to watching her bear more and more fruit, especially in her community.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy. Students in photograph not associated with story.