“I never believed this day would happen,” Amanda stated. “Most of my life, graduation felt like an impossible dream.” Her diploma symbolized more than just completing high school, it was the reassurance that her fear would NOT come true. Unlike what she was told growing up, she would not end up like her mom, who as a young teen became pregnant with her and dropped out of school.
With the support of her Show-Me family, she is on a path to get her CNA certificate in order to serve the elderly and help children like she once was – in need of a little extra attention to reach their God-given potential. “I never would have gotten here if it wasn’t for Show-Me,” she explained. “The school allowed me to catch up to where I needed to be and the teachers were always there to push me to strive and accomplish my goals!”
School Sets The Stage for Life
Growing up, Amanda called many places home. She attended numerous schools as she bounced from family to family. Moving so often made it hard to trust others, build healthy relationships, or keep up with her peers in school. Math was especially difficult for her.
She was placed in special education classes to try to help. Although only behind in math, being labeled a “Special Ed” kid made her believe she was an overall failure with little hope for a future. These feelings ate at her self-esteem leading her to increasingly become isolated, which made her more vulnerable to negative influences in her life. Things came to a boiling point in 2015. Soon after, she soon came to Show-Me.
Uncommon Solutions to Common Problems
Life didn’t magically get better when she arrived and joined the Watkins family. “At that point, I didn’t have much hope for myself,” Amanda said. “I didn’t care for anything.”
Despite having been in the 7th grade, she was at a 3rd grade level in Math and English. She was behind multiple grades in the rest of her subjects. Her situation was a familiar one to Show-Me, where it is not uncommon for the kids that find their way here to be four grade-levels behind where they should be. The battles that they face at home make keeping up with the rest of their class a struggle. Public schools do not always have the necessary resources or time to give the extra attention needed to help them catch up. Feelings of failure, depression, frustration, and anger can arise if the cycle continues and the gap widens.
In 2000, after being forced to dismiss too many children because they were suspended from the public school, Show-Me created a private, Christian school option to try and overcome some of the unmet challenges. Using the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) Program, each student is evaluated subject-by-subject to create their own academic path to complete their studies. Students learn at their own pace while working to reach daily goals. This approach empowers students to own their education and success. Many kids who were falling behind in their former schools are able to catch up and graduate high school on time.
The ACE program identified the subject concepts that Amanda missed. She began to show progress and pass her subjects as she followed a targeted approach using PACEs, the ACE program’s bite-sized workbooks designed for self-instructional thinking skills and the mastery of a subject. Whether at home or in class, there was always someone available to help her understand when she got stuck or confused since many of the houseparents also worked in the school.
The Show-Me Christian School (SMCS) went beyond helping her in core subjects like math, English, literature, science, and social studies. Interwoven into each lesson was a Christian world view with Scripture and one of 72 Biblical character traits – all designed to help develop moral character, a sense of accountability, and wisdom in her life. It was changing the way she thought of herself. “Here we are all the same, nobody looks at you different. For the first time, I never felt rushed or uncared for,” stated Amanda. “Having the freedom to go at my own speed made me want to try harder. I found an inner strength I didn’t know I had.”
Finding Her Stride
She discovered a number of talents and interests by participating in extra-curricular activities. She sang as part of the praise team for the weekly chapel services. Being around the animals in Leadership U (LU) provided safe emotional connections. “Horses and dogs don’t judge you, they are really good listeners,” she joked. She found that the concepts taught in LU applied to her life, too. “To accomplish my goals, I needed to calm down, have confidence, try harder, and above all never give up,” stated Amanda.
That same determination would carry over to success in sports. Amanda gained confidence as she played volleyball, basketball, and was part of the team that took first place in track at state. “There, I forget about everything else,” she said. “To play well, you can’t let doubt and fear follow you on the court.” She was named to the MOKAN all-conference second team in basketball and took top state honors in volleyball. But, her teammates were her biggest motivational factor. “If I wanted to play, I knew I had to find a way to do well in class,” she recounted. “I couldn’t let my team down.”
In the Path to Purpose Program, she learned key life skills like how to make a budget from the Dave Ramsey’s financial courses and how to drive. Job shadowing at local hospitals confirmed that she wanted to be a nurse and work with the elderly or kids with special needs.
Taking on a New Identity in Christ
Slowly, but surely, becoming an adult didn’t seem so scary when she realized that she was a part of God’s bigger family. At the age of 19, she decided to make the change official when she changed her name and asked to be adopted by the Watkins family. “My parents helped me succeed by believing in me, not giving up (even though at times I thought they would), and showing me how to love and be part of a family,” Amanda said. “I’ve learned that when there seems to be no one else, there is always God to rely on.”