Message from Joy Ryan, President/CEO, Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
Dearest Ranch Friends,
I was visiting our cottages during our annual Fall Festival. One of our older Ranch boys, who is now a Senior at Dakota Memorial School, was pretty dressed up for a school day. He had on a freshly pressed polo shirt and nice khaki slacks. He is a more reserved child, but he sidled up to me and just stood there expectantly. Amber, the Care Coordinator for the cottage, gently said, “I think he has something to tell you, Joy.”
I turned fully to him to see a sparkle in his eye and a shy grin. “Joy, I had a job interview today! And I think it went really well!” I congratulated him, shook his hand and asked him when he would know for sure. “I have a second interview on Tuesday. I think I might get the job!” He was bubbling with excitement.
So much of our identity, in the United States, is tied up in what we “do.” The second question we ask someone we’ve just met, after their name, is “What do you do?” I am very grateful for my role here at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch and am eager to answer the question. No matter how we answer, “I am raising my children.” “I am a banker.” “I am a pastor.” “I am retired.” “I work with at-risk kids,” it is a big part of how we see ourselves. For this young man, his whole world is opening. He is going from “I am a foster child in care,” to “I work at the large store on the corner of Broadway and Main, and I go to school full-time.”
This same young man is applying for college. He is re-writing the story that is his life. He used to hear, “You are worthless,” “You are a loser,” “You are stupid,” and “No one will ever love you.” Now he hears, and believes, “You are valued and kind and, yes, go ahead and go to college! And, Jesus has always loved you.”
This is what we do at the Ranch. With God as our hero, we help at-risk children find the life they were meant to live. No child is meant to live in pain, trauma, hurt, and shame. Every child should have the chance to be their own best selves… and that is what they find at the Ranch.
I fully expect to hear about this young man years from now. When asked “Who are you and what do you do?,” he will say, “I am a child of God… and an astrophysicist,” because that is the life he is determined to live.
Please keep our children, their families, and Ranch staff in your prayers. Thank you for your ongoing support.
In His love,
reprinted from Ranch Voice, Winter 2017-2018