A question and answer session with Eagle Ranch resident, Dylan D.
What was life like before you came to Eagle Ranch?
My home life was chaotic. I was slamming doors, breaking things and running away. My parents, little sister and I didn’t have a good relationship. When I first found out that I was coming to Eagle Ranch, I was scared because I didn’t want to be away from my family. But I knew we needed it.
What has your experience been like with the counseling department at Eagle Ranch?
Before I came to Eagle Ranch, I went to three different counselors. I didn’t really care what they had to say, and I wouldn’t do what they asked me to work on. When I came here and I met Michael, my counselor here at the Ranch, I had the same attitude. As I started talking with Michael and getting to know him, he became the best counselor I’ve ever had. He knew more about my actions because I was here at the Ranch, so he would hold me accountable for them and ask me why I did them. I knew I would be held accountable for everything, so I figured I would just talk through some of this stuff with him. That really helped.
The best part of counseling for me was when we would have group conversations with the other guys in my home. A lot of the guys have been through the same stuff I’ve been through, so we get a lot of perspective from talking things out. When I’m with the group, I feel safe. I feel like I can just talk and not be judged.
How has counseling helped your family?
Counseling has really helped my family. We’ve learned how to work through the struggles we’ve been having at home, and our counselor gives us new ways to handle them. Counseling has also helped our family understand each other more. At first, it was hard to express how we were feeling. For the first 4-5 sessions, I didn’t speak; I really didn’t do anything. I had to build trust with my family and my counselor before I could express my feelings. Now, I look at counseling as a safe place. We can express our feelings in front of each other, no one will blow up, and no one will judge us.
What has your experience been like at Eagle Ranch School?
I’ll always remember my first day at Eagle Ranch School. I was walking in and Mr. DeWaal was standing there with a huge smile on his face and said, “Welcome to Eagle Ranch!” I gave him a fist bump and walked in, feeling really inspired. Mr. DeWaal is really encouraging and peps me up for my day.
Everyone at the school holds you accountable—the teachers are really good at that. At the same time, the teachers are also reassuring. If you make a mistake, they’ll encourage you and say, “You can do this next time.” They really help you work through what you’re struggling with. I’ve also built a lot of trust with the teachers and Mr. DeWaal, so if something is going on in school I can always go and talk with them. Eagle Ranch School is another one of those safe places where you can just talk.
What has your experience been like with your Houseparents?
My Houseparents were awesome. They talked to me and encouraged me, especially when something was wrong. It’s nice to know that you have people next to you that are on your side, that are going through this journey with you and keep supporting you until you return home.
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned while at Eagle Ranch?
One of the most impactful things I’ve learned is self-control and personal responsibility. If you don’t have any personal responsibility for your actions, you can’t have any self-control. You can only change if you realize you’re the one responsible for your actions.
Another one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned here is respect. Respect is one of the most important things in life. If you don’t have respect, you’re just going to be mean to everyone and everyone is going to be mean to you. If I did not learn respect, I would not be where I am right now. When you respect another person, that’s what leads to building a relationship.