Graduate Update: Josh Calupca
Josh came to Eagle Ranch in 2016 afraid, unsociable and unmotivated. He refused to go to school and made every excuse to stay home. This led to many arguments, and Josh would retreat and hide out in his room for hours—sometimes for days—and refused to come out, talk, or even eat. Fast forward to today, Josh recently graduated high school as valedictorian, excelled in sports and other extracurriculars, and is headed to the University of Georgia this fall to study Mechanical Engineering.
Josh recently returned to Eagle Ranch to share his testimony; below is his speech presented at our 2022 Run the Ranch:
My name is Joshua Calupca and I’m a graduate from Eagle Ranch. I came to the Ranch about six years ago and spent almost a year here. That one year here would change the course of my life forever.
When I was younger, I developed an intense fear of school. Something just seemed to switch over night. My mom says it was like her sweet boy had been replaced by an alien. This fear of school would have a further domino effect upon me. As I withdrew from school, I also withdrew from family events, sports, activities with my friends and the normal things a young boy usually does.
I would end up spending most of the day in my room. What little interaction I had with my family was bitter and rebellious. I became more mean, more obnoxious and more aggressive. I cared about no one else except for myself.
My parents tried many venues to try and get me back into a manageable state, but nothing worked. Counseling would seem to help at the moment, but I would rapidly regress once I left their office. Homeopathic supplements made me act worse, and doctors who wanted to throw more strange drugs at me just scared my family.
The last straw for my parents would be when I got in a fight with my cousin at our family reunion. After that incident, there was significant damage to the relationships with my entire family. It solidified in everyone’s mind that there was something wrong with me. I was the problem child.
I was never going to willingly agree to being hauled off to some unknown place to live for an indefinite amount of time. So, my parents had to be sneaky. The day I came to the ranch, I had spent time with my grandparents the night before. My dad picked me up and I thought he was going to bring me home. I vividly remember saying, “I can’t wait to go home, go to sleep and play with my friends online.” I never saw it coming. I quickly realized we were not going home.
When the destination did become clear to me, I lost it. I tried everything to get out of it. But my dad did the best he could to try to reassure me, “You’ve got a monkey on your shoulder, Josh. You’ve got to get it off. This place will help you.” My father was also struggling with this choice to send me away. I was the firstborn son. He was placing a lot of faith in a program that was a very drastic step for my family. But he knew I needed something. Eagle Ranch was the last resort. I had little other option but to surrender to this new destiny. At this moment God began to chip away at my hard heart. I was stuck in a rut. I knew I needed a way to get me out, but I was too afraid of change.
When I arrived at the Ranch, I met one of my new houseparents, Mr. Doug. Seeing that I was distressed, he took me outside to talk with him. His compassion for my situation reassured me just enough for me to keep going.
We then went to my new home, The Love Home. My parents got me situated the best they could. Then they left. So, there I was. I was surrounded by new housemates and new houseparents. But I felt completely alone. It took a while to realize that my family cared enough about me to get the help I needed. Slowly I would begin to give in to the program.
The first thing that changed was what came out of my mouth. At the Ranch I was very shy. But in this shyness, I began to listen. I realized that everyone is complex and interesting. Listening more than speaking allowed me to understand this and see the value of other people’s thoughts.
In my time at the Ranch, we had many groups. My peers would voice complaints, concerns, fears. We learned how to listen and to use “I feel” statements. Not to be so accusatory, but be able to swallow our pride and give the chance to someone else to speak their thoughts. If no one listened, the group would dissolve into chaos and nothing got done. I learned how to articulate myself and my feelings. Words when used sparingly have immense power.
In addition to learning how to express myself, I found I actually enjoyed learning. An enormous obstacle in my way was going to school. I joined the program at the beginning of the summer. I became acclimated to the Ranch and relaxed a little with fun group activities and insightful discussions. Still, August spelled the impending doom of school. Then I got the chance to visit the school and speak with the principal, Mr. DeWal. This visit provided me with enough courage to get myself through the doors on the first day. From there I saw that the teachers actually cared about me. They invested their efforts in making sure that I could accomplish my goals. As I applied myself, I experienced academic success for the first time, and I loved it.
Amongst many other things I would develop here at the Ranch, such as a love for sports, teamwork, and family balance, the most important lesson I learned was my need for God. Those first few nights as I lay awake, anxious, and frightened, I began to read the Bible. I started in Genesis and just kept on going. Soon it became a habit. Along with journaling, I started to notice how God was beginning to work inside me. He was giving me an opportunity here at the Ranch to turn my life around. He was changing my heart. These discoveries I made on my own were further supported by the Christ-focused mission here at Eagle Ranch.
When you step onto the property here you can feel the presence of Christ. In the people, the prayers and the mission. For me when I’m here I feel a sense of peace. God has his hand on this place. This ministry is changing lives just like mine.
I fought my heart change every step of the way. I tried everything to get out of the Ranch, but slowly I would begin to surrender. I began to make choices that were in line with God’s will, not my own. I learned to control my anger. I learned to listen and appreciate those around me. I began to love learning and found that I had the power to be successful. My family would be restored. The Ranch was the catalyst through which God changed my heart. I was a boy who was afraid to come out of his room and now I am able to face the world. Here I am today. I get to give you my story. God works miracles here, and for that I am forever grateful. Thank you.
To read a story during Josh’s time in the Eagle Ranch program, click here.