I’m pretty sure I have the best job on the planet. As school secretary/librarian here at Cookson Hills I get to interact daily with all of our kids on campus. My prayer is always that the kids see the library as a warm and inviting safe place. Whether it’s to get a book, a cough drop, or something else, there is always a steady stream of students in the library. This presents numerous opportunities for me to love them and get to know them one little piece at a time. It is always gratifying to see new kids begin to feel comfortable in the school environment and start hanging out in the library. It usually only takes a week or two.
Things were different with Brittany though. I remember telling the principal one day, “I have a relationship with every single kid in school except Brittany and it’s driving me crazy!” I am not sure of all the reasons, but even after she had been here several months I had never had a conversation with her. She never came into the library. She avoided adults unless it was absolutely necessary. I think a big part of it was she was distrustful of adults in general from past hurts. I specifically remember when things began to change. She came to my window for something she really needed and we had a positive interaction. I was ecstatic! I ran back to the principal’s office saying, “I just had a conversation with Brittany!” After that, things slowly began to progress. Instead of coming to the window, she started coming into the library for various things. Then she started to come in and chat during breaks. Then she became one of the of kids who hung out every opportunity they can. What a blessing to see this breakthrough!
One of the key things that make the Cookson Hills environment successful is the community. We might work in different departments, but we have the opportunity to pour into these kids lives outside of our normal spheres. School staff go to ballgames, take the kids to special events, play sports with them — all of which help build relationships and trust outside the classroom. It is an important aspect in helping these wonderful kids work through their past hurts. It was amazing to watch Brittany go from holding adults at an arm’s length to building positive relationships with her houseparents, teachers, principal and her librarian!
After graduating in June of 2017, Brittany has stayed at Cookson Hills for an additional year to do the independent living program and get her online college degree started. It has been such a blessing to watch her grow into a beautiful, mature young woman. My husband and I did not get to experience the blessings of having our own children, but after eight years at Cookson we have more kids than we know what to do with – and THAT is a blessing beyond words.