Confidence through Chaos

To a soul seeking comfort, 

When I was 14 years old, I saw a counselor. Her church supported Cookson Hills. She recommended Cookson Hills to my father because of the many problems I was going through. One may ask what I was experiencing at 14 that I would need to be sent to a children’s home. I was assaulted by a half-sibling from ages 5-14, I blamed myself for my parent’s divorce, and I was obese and ashamed of who I was.

I lived at Cookson Hills from my freshman year until I graduated high school (2004-2007). I joined the Hard Family, benefited from counseling, and often participated in the Horse Therapy program. I was actually 1 of 4 students who got to work with wild ponies that we got at the barn!

Lessons for life

Through my years at Cookson Hills, I learned how to cope properly and how to communicate my needs. I oftentimes just held my needs in and ate away my emotions and problems. Throughout my journey of healing, I learned what I wanted in life. I discovered how I could overcome any trauma and not be a victim but could use my story to help others. Today I am 30 years old and graduated in May with my Associates of Nursing. I am the wife to an active duty soldier and mother to two beautiful little girls Aspen (5) and Berkley (3). 

Throughout my healing at Cookson Hills, I found a love for helping others by volunteering and giving back. Nowadays, you can find me helping other wives in the Army, volunteering with the Family Readiness Group, and doing photography to relax. 

The people at Cookson Hills taught me that through marriage you are a team. You work together, communicate together, and build one another up. I always look back at how loving, inspiring, and uplifting my houseparents were to each of us. I try and instill that into my girls and my marriage. Cookson Hills has taught me that even when life has its negative moments, I should try to find positivity and turn the bad into good. I hope that someone reading this will learn that Cookson Hills has amazing potential for a child who is struggling.

On my own

At 18, I left Cookson Hills. I struggled to find my footing, but slowly and surely I found out how to make it on my own. I became a strong, independent woman using all the skills taught to me by the Lankstons, Hards, Benners, Shaffers, and Holdens. I not only gained great skills for life as an adult, but I am still in contact with most of my house siblings and parents, even ten years after graduating and moving to another country. The lifetime bonds are always there, even after completing the program. Believe in the program, and it will repay itself tenfold in the years that follow. I cannot thank Cookson Hills enough for taking me in as a lost, confused, hurting teenager. Today I am a strong, bold, confident woman. All because of the continuous support, uplifting environment, and unending love provided to me. 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Krista Ellis (O’Dell) is a former student at Cookson Hills. Originally from Wichita, KS, she is now a military spouse residing in Ft. Hood, TX along with her husband, Jeremy, and two daughters, Aspen (5) and Berkley (4). Krista enjoys photography, reading, jeeping and working as a Trauma Nurse.