school, first day

A year to celebrate

It was the last week of the school year and the campus was abuzz with all the end of the year activities; awards night, band concert, field day, and yearbook signing. I was sitting in my classroom chatting with my yearbook co-advisor after class; in bounced Kaytlin. With a grin from ear to ear, she exclaimed, “If I make it to Friday, this will be the first year of high school that I’ve stayed at one school!” I congratulated her with a high five and some playful encouragement to make it to Friday. After she bounced out of the room to tell anyone else who would celebrate with her it really sunk in what she was so excited about. 

I grew up at Cookson Hills and when my family left in 1999 we stayed in the same town and I attended the public school till I graduated. So I went to 2 schools in my whole school career, 3 if you count college. So the fact that she was excited about finishing a year in the same school she started seemed almost foreign. As I pondered it I wondered how many of our kids have similar stories. That for the first time they are in the same home and school for a whole year. It is so powerful that something I had taken for granted my whole life, could be a life-changing win for our kids. 


I wanted to know more about her story so I asked her to share it with me. This is what she said:  

This is the first year during my high school career where I have stayed in one school from the beginning of the year to the end. As a freshman I attended Sequoyah High school where I just really didn’t do well. I got into some trouble and did some things I should not have done. I left at the end of that first semester and attended Epic Charter Schools. Somehow, at that time I had enough credits to be a sophomore. So, instead of finishing up my freshman year, I finished up my sophomore year.

Summer came and once again I was getting into trouble and being a defiant kid. In August I started my junior year with Epic. Unfortunatly, I continued to get into a lot of trouble. My dad started looking for a place to put me. At the end of the first semester at Epic, my dad kicked me out of the house. My grandparents took me in for a few months. I refused to try. I just cheated my way through all the school work I was given. Eventually I just stopped doing any school. So my parents pulled me out of Epic before finishing up the year. 

A few months later I was brought into the Cookson Hills community and restarted and finished my Junior year. Here I am, finishing up a full year of high school at one school; that’s a life changer for me. I have learned cheating my way through life wasn’t beneficial to me. I’ve learned I can be a smart kid with a real future. 

Kaytlin was so excited to make it to Friday. This life-changing moment is just a stepping stone to bigger and better goals for her future.

Now I’m starting my senior year, and I will also be attending NTC (Northeastern Technology Center). There I will be studying health careers. Staying in one place has been a relief. It has helped me to get closer to accomplishing my goals. None of this was easy but it is a challenge I would definitely take again.”

Celebrating the wins

Kaytlin recognized the victory of this accomplishment. She saw this as a “life changer” for herself. My hope is that she continues to build on this win and continue to grow throughout her lifetime.

We celebrate these wins with our kids and I love seeing their faces light up as they reach goals they have set for themselves. The stability and love that Cookson Hills provides can really change lives and it’s great to have the opportunity to see that change first hand.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Lauren Hard has worked at Cookson Hills for 4 years. She is the Impact Coordinator in the Story Telling Group department. After work, you can find her playing with her three children, hiking, or doing something creative.