Ryland arrived at Eagle Ranch in July 2021. “I’ll never forget that day because it’s the day I realized that God wanted me to push forward and keep going with my life,” she recalled. “It was the day I told myself that I wanted to change.”
Middle school was tough on Ryland. She was failing most of her classes and struggled making healthy friendships. Fear resulted in letting herself be led by others, even when it was to her detriment. “I was scared of people disapproving of me, invalidating me or dismissing me. It kept me from standing up for myself in stressful situations, and I would just shut down.”
Seeing their daughter’s decline and worried for her future, Ryland’s parents presented the idea of Eagle Ranch to her, knowing it was a choice they needed to make for their family, which includes three siblings in addition to Ryland.
“I realized I wanted to pursue this, that it was actually going to help me,” she said.
Early on, the family recognized that Eagle Ranch is about restoration and working with the whole family.
“It really is a family therapy program,” said Ryland’s dad, Michael. “I think so often, at least when we first looked at it, we didn’t fully understand how much we had to change our whole family dynamic.”
While Ryland lived on campus as part of Eagle Ranch’s residential program, her family came to the campus for counseling sessions, training and fun activities. While they stayed connected, there was enough separation to provide space for healing.
“One of the biggest benefits to the program is that it gives your family the space you need to step back and approach things differently,” Michael said. “When you’re in the middle of the chaos, it’s very difficult to make changes and to see the hope and the light ahead. It’s much harder in those moments to really focus because you’re just trying to keep things moving. Once we had space to step back and approach it with a little more time, energy and intentionality, it really helped us navigate things better.”
Ryland’s mom, Kerri, appreciated that things never felt forced. She felt equipped to address their family’s struggles.
“Eagle Ranch is a place that promotes healing,” Kerri said. “You can’t force anything but you have all the ingredients: space, reflection, putting down old tools that don’t work and picking up new ones, with the goal of looking forward and having hope.”
A large part of Ryland’s healing was understanding how to sort through complex emotions and express them in a productive way.
“A lot of kids these days don’t actually know what they’re feeling,” she said. “They just know the overall feeling, like angry, happy, but when you break it down, it makes a lot more sense, and you understand why you are having an outburst.”
Being able to express herself and not allow emotions to build up, helped Ryland be more open to rebuilding her family relationships and also learn how to make positive friendships.
She feels like she has a solid foundation to continue growing in her faith, relationships and life goals.
“Before the Ranch, I felt lost and rejected.Now I feel found and accepted. There’s still so much I have to work on, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished,” Ryland said. “I’ve worked really hard to get where I am now. I was determined that I could change, that I could have joy.”
Ryland is the inaugural recipient of the Chuma Family “Believe in Me” Endowment Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to an Eagle Ranch graduate who has displayed tremendous growth throughout their time in the program and a desire to pursue a unique academic passion, while maintaining an unwavering commitment to the fundamental values and core beliefs of Eagle Ranch.