FAQ, Questions, kids, children's home

Student FAQs with Sidney

When a kid is looking at Cookson Hills as a possibility they usually have many questions. Sarah Curry sat down with senior, Sidney, to ask her the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) to get a perspective from one of our kids who has been through it all. This is the video (and transcript) of the conversation answering the student FAQs.

Here is the video Transcribed

Sarah: Hi, my name is Sarah Curry, and I have with me today Sidney. Sidney is a student here at Cookson Hills. She is here to answer our most commonly asked questions from people who are looking at coming here. So if you’re thinking about coming to Cookson Hills, she’s got you.

Sidney: I will certainly try my best.

Sarah: Alright. So let’s get started here with question number one. Sydney,

What is Cookson Hills?

Sidney: Well, first of all, Cookson Hills is not a cult or military school like most people would think. Cookson Hills is just a home away from home. Or, for some kids, it’s just home. It is a great opportunity for kids to get the love, care, and support they need to succeed in life.

Sarah: This place is in the middle of nowhere. What’s going to happen?

Sidney: Well, yes. On a map, this place is in the middle of nowhere. You’re right. But it doesn’t feel like it.  This place is a community, and you build great relationships here. We do things. We don’t just sit here all the time. Like, we go out and do things. We have fun. My family, we go jet skiing, go to the store, go shopping, and do lots of things. So it really doesn’t feel like you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere at all.  You have all these great people surrounding you all the time. Don’t pay attention to no map.

Sarah: What are the houses like?

Sidney:  The houses consist of a boy’s and girl’s hall. Other than that, it’s just like a regular home. We have a living room and dining room. Our family has a pool table; that way, we can have other things to do besides homework or whatever and just have a good time. All the houses are different, and all the houses have different things.

Sarah:  Do I have to share a room?

Sidney:  Yes, you do have to share a room. As I mentioned, we have both a boy’s and a girl’s hall, and within each hall, there are three bedrooms. You do have a roommate in two of the rooms, and one is a single room. In the rooms where you have a roommate, they put someone in there that’s close to your age. They will not put you with someone that’s super younger than you or way older than you. I have a roommate, and she’s awesome. It’s just a way to connect and have a better relationship with someone else on campus. 

Sarah:  If this is a home, can I actually graduate from this place?

Sidney: That is a great question. It’s something that I was super scared about when I first got here. I thought, if I’m coming to some group home, how will I graduate? How am I going to get my degree? But I learned that this place is not just a home; it has a school right here on campus, just like any other school you can graduate from. 

Sarah: Does the school have sports?

Sidney: Like I said, it’s not a cult of military school. We do have sports and other fun activities. In the fall, we have both cross-country for the boys and volleyball for the girls. Then once that’s over, we have basketball for both boys and girls.

Sarah: Are there any other clubs that you can do?

Sidney: Sure, once sports season is over, we have this thing called 4-Him.  It’s where we have a class after school for any extracurricular activities that we don’t normally have.  We have drama, STEM, and other things like Horsemanship. So lots of fun activities you can do.

Sarah:  Do you have any normal school activities aside from sports? Is it normal?

Sidney: Yes, it’s a perfectly normal school.  We get that one a lot. Well, we have homecoming. We have a dance, which is super fun. And we have senior activities, like a senior trip and senior fundraisers. There are lots of things that we do just like in a normal school.

Sarah: How often do you get to hang out around other kids that are on campus?

Sidney: Pretty often, that’s what this whole thing is about. Being able to build relationships with other people. The houses are pretty close together, so we often go outside and just see each other or hang out. There are even times when we get together after lunch and have a big volleyball or basketball game on the court before we head back to school. Or we walk to school together in the morning. There are lots of opportunities for us to hang out because we all live so close together.

Sarah: I like things, so can I get a job and make money?

Sidney: Yeah, for sure. There are many different ways to make money here. One of which is, you have an allowance every week. Depending on how old you are, it’s usually around $5. And you get that allowance for doing your daily chores at home. Besides that, we also have this thing called performance pay. Every 6 weeks at the end of each school term, we get a check if our grades are well enough. We can get as much as $40 each term.

Other than that, if you want to make some extra money, when you’re 16, you can apply for a job. It’s just like any other job. You have to apply and have an interview before you can get a job. So if you want to make some extra money, that’s a great way to do it. I have a job. I’m on the Janitorial crew. Honestly, it’s a really good way to get away from home. Sometimes I just come, blast my music, have fun, and it’s a great way to make a little extra money.

Sarah:  But what if I don’t get that job, and I don’t have any money, and my grades aren’t great? Then how do I get what I need?

Sidney: That’s a great question. We actually have this thing called a special needs account. That’s where your parents or guardians put money into an account to help you get the things that you need. So if you need a special shampoo or conditioner; of course, you have to go through your house parents to make sure that that’s something that you need, but then once you tell them, they can get the shampoo or conditioner for you with the money from the special needs account. If you don’t have someone outside to put money into the account, fortunately, we have a great thing here at Cookson where they provide for you whatever you need. Not your wants, though. That’s what a job is for. If you want something, go get a job.

Sarah: Do you ever get to talk to your parents again?

Sidney: Yes. For the first 30 days, you don’t get to talk to your parents. Don’t freak out! But after that, it’s ok. You see, if you have your mom on speed dial the whole time you were here, then you would never try to build relationships or connect with other people. So for the first 30 days, no, you can’t have contact with anyone, but after that, you get to call your parents once a week or every other week. You also get letters. You have a contact list, so if you’re missing your best friend back home, your parents can put her on your contact list, and you can send them letters. Or you can send your parents letters and keep in contact with people that way.

Sarah: When can I go and visit my family?

Sidney: Yeah, so there’s this thing called a visit calendar, and you get to schedule 3-5 visits throughout the year where you can go back and visit your family.  We only do it three to five times because it would to transition from home to Cookson to home to Cookson constantly. You don’t want that. The reason you come to Cookson is for the stability. So it’s just a great way to be able to go home and see your family but not have to be constantly going back and forth.

Sarah: Alright, this is a really important question for many people looking to come to Cookson Hills.

Can I have my phone?

Sidney: Haha, No. You can’t have your phone. See, we like to kick it a little old-school here, and if you were constantly scrolling on your phone, you wouldn’t be hanging out with friends or doing other things. We like to do stuff like read books or go on a hike or other fun things. The longer you live here, the more you’ll realize you really don’t need a phone all that much.

Sarah: It’s true.  And if you had a phone, it would only work on 10% of Campus.

Sidney: Bad Cell service

Sarah: How is the food?

Sidney: Well, my favorite Chef is my dad.  You see, he makes really good food.  Sometimes he grills steak and stuff. I love that. But honestly, we get fed pretty well here. There are some times when you eat at home and other times when everyone eats together at the dining hall on campus.

Sarah:  Another really important question. Are you allowed to date?

Sidney:  Yeah, of course.  As I said, a regular place like any other.  You can date. But there are certain restrictions, and there’s a process that you have to go through. It’s actually really nice and helps you learn how to build healthy, long-lasting relationships. So yeah, you can date.

Sarah: Ok, well, good. I hope that eases your mind out there.

Are they going to force me to be a Christian?

Sidney: No, this place is not like that at all. They won’t force you to be a Christian. They will give you different life decisions or choices, but they’re not going to force you to be anything you don’t want to be.  They’re going to love you and support you no matter who you are, where you’ve come from, or what you’ve done. The only thing that I would say is definitely respect them because even if you’re not a Christian, you would want them to respect you for whatever life decisions you make for yourself, so do the same for them.

Sarah: How long did it take you to feel comfortable here?

Sidney: If I’m being completely honest, it took me 2 to 3 months to fully get comfortable here. But, that’s just life. You just got to get used to things, and if you just be yourself, it really isn’t that hard to start connecting with people and just find your way.

Sarah: What would you say to someone who is looking at coming here?

Sidney: Well, much like I was saying, it is really hard. It’s a big life changer. It’s going to be scary, but that’s how life is. Life is scary, and you never know what’s going to happen or what’s going to come of it. You just have to keep persevering. When you come here, you have tons of people who just love and care about you, and support you no matter what. Like I’ve said a million times what you’ve done, what you’ve been through, or who you are,  it is really scary, but you can do it.

Sarah: Awesome. Well, thank you, Sidney, for answering all of those questions. There was a lot. We hope that it possibly has given you some peace with what you’re looking into. Thank you for watching, and we’ll see you later. Bye.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Sidney is a Cookson Hills 2022 graduate. She loves theatre, painting, and all things Toy Story. She is currently serving as Senator for the Freshman class and is part of the Presidents Leadership Class on the campus of Northeastern State University (NSU). She enjoys telling jokes, To-Do lists, and accomplishing goals. When she’s not at school learning all the things, you can find her hanging out with her friends and jamming out to 80’s music!

Sarah Curry is the Manager of our Storytelling group. She has the honor of sharing the stories of Cookson Hills with our amazing support base. When Sarah is not in the office, you can bet she is either spending time with the love of her life and their two beautiful kiddos, channeling her creativity through art and design, playing volleyball, regretting her decision to get a bowl cut in the third grade, running, or planning their next family adventure.

Edited for readability by Lauren Hard.