Robert grew up with his dad. "My mom couldn't handle all of us at once, so she put me with my dad. I've lived with him since I was born," he said.
Robert said his dad has always worked hard and has helped him through a lot of rough times. But no amount of hard work could equip his dad to help him deal with the challenges resulting from Robert's psychiatric issues and autism.
"School was rough. I was stealing and had anger issues," Robert said. "That's what brought me to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. I was having trouble getting regulated with my medication."
Coming to the Ranch wasn't easy. "It was a little scary because I didn't know what it'd be like," Robert said. "I was miles away from home and I didn't get to see my dad as much."
Rober has been at the Ranch twice. He recalls being 13 or 14 years old when he started his first stay. He went home and did really well for about a year before backsliding.
"I kind of acted up again and had to go back when I was 16," Robert said.
Therapy, school, Ranch staff, and good medication management made all the difference for Robert.
"The staff just taught me and stuck with me. They motivated me. They were always encouraging me and telling me I could do things. I was angry because I thought I was a failure. They really helped me see that I wasn't. They helped to re-regulate me and now I've been doing well for almost two years."
Robert says Marisa Rudie, Program Manager, and Paul Cordova, Youth Care Worker, helped him the most.
"They were phenomenal," Robert said. "They joked with me and taught me from wrong to good. They always believed in me and told me I could do it if I tried with all my heart. They told me, 'If you don't try, you'll never succeed, but if you try, you can do anything."
Robert put those lessons to work in school while he was at the Ranch and at his home school when he moved back home.
"My teachers [at the Ranch] were great too. They believed in me. Now I'm in college because of what they taught me and what they told me."
Robert is going to Minot State University, where he lives in the dorms, and is working at Trinity Hospital as a Dietary Aide. He hasn't declared a major yet, but he is getting closer to choosing his path.
"I might just stick with Trinity and go into nursing. I like it here," Robert said.
Robert has something he'd like to say to everyone at the Ranch who helped him.
"Thank you for believing in me. I appreciate it," Robert said. "I'll always remember what you guys taught me and what you showed me. You cared for me, and you made a difference in my life. Without the Ranch I'd probably be having a really hard time right now. I wouldn't have been in a good place."
This article was originally published in Ranch Voice: Spring 2022.
Read more stories like this and explore other issues of Ranch Voice here.