story, school, future, flame, hope, perspective

A future and a flame

My name is Eric, and I am originally from Uganda. My family and I came to the United States in 2015. A month before my 13th birthday, my dad told me that I would be going to school. The next thing I knew, I was being dropped off at Cookson Hills. When I first arrived, I hated it. It was in the middle of nowhere in the woods with people I had never met before. The worst part of all was when I heard, for the first time in my life, the word “rules.” 

student, new, uganda, hope,
Eric first came to Cookson Hills in 8th grade.

I disliked every bit of being here. The people were friendly, but I just wanted to leave and go back to the city. I tried to ask my dad to take me back but failed. I was in a house with the weirdest people I had ever met, and I had to call them family. We had all these rules and Christian music- both things I never knew existed before my time at Cookson Hills. I just wanted to be free of them and have my actual family back. 


It wasn’t until I was around 15 years old that my perspective started to change. I realized that everything I was given was free; I was never charged for anything. Instead, I was given an allowance, given money for my good grades, and had a job on campus and got paid. I had people that loved me and only wanted what was best for me. 

Every year students fill out a wish list and individuals from supporting churches send presents to the kids at Cookson Hills. Eric and his brother Bolton prepare to open their Christmas gifts.

It wasn’t until that change in perspective that I started to appreciate everything that was being done for me. All those things that I didn’t even pay a dime for; free food, clothing from the donation center. And what amazes me, even more, was that it was completely reliant on donations, the kindness of people’s hearts, strangers I didn’t even know, and most I would never meet. Seeing that just changed my heart.


I was never the type to do anything for free, and I still struggle with that, but knowing that I am here and getting taken care of all because some people have kind and generous hearts in this universe… That just amazes me. I am being raised in a God-fearing household, learning values that will change the world one day because of these people!  

I have definitely learned to be more appreciative of what Cookson Hills has done for me. Thanks to Cookson Hills and the people who support us, I’ve had a safe place to stay, meals in my belly, and the ability to know God better. I’ve also made some good long-lasting relationships, graduated high school, and been provided with a tech school opportunity which is giving me a career in electrical engineering. I have definitely been blessed with my time here. I am thankful to God that I came here and spent my teenage years discovering myself in a Godly environment. Now I have a future and the flame to do for others what has been done for me. 

Eric received several awards and certifications from Northeast Technology Center while in high school. He needs his friends and brother to help hold them all up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Eric 2021 Graduate was born in Uganda. He and his brother came to Cookson Hills from Los Angeles. He attended the local Vo-Tech school so he could pursue a career in electrical engineering. He enjoys videogames, music, and time with friends.