Kierstyn’s hair is a dark brown bob – this week. Since arriving at Boys Ranch, the 17-year-old feels safe expressing herself
with different hairstyles and makeup applications.
“I have probably been through a dozen styles in the last two years,” she said.
The high school senior now enters rooms confidently, giving no sign that she suffers from social anxiety.
“When I get anxious, I mess with my hands a lot,” she said in her rich, alto voice. “That’s what this clicker is for.”
She uses the clicker in her hand as she was taught at Boys Ranch to help her stay calm in stressful situations. She also has a spinning ring that she occasionally uses for the same purpose.
Rolling with the Punches
Kierstyn learned to roll with the punches throughout her life, whether dealing with anxiety or compressing four years of high school education into three years.
“I’m quick at things like that, I guess,” she said. “A lot of it was online, so I went at my own pace.”
Her Boys Ranch caseworker, Alison Brobston, jumped in to elaborate.
“Last week,” Brobston said, “Kierstyn completed all of government and all of economics.”
When Kierstyn found out she had to have these classes to graduate in May, she didn’t back down from the challenge. She accelerated her learning pace and completed them.
“She did it,” Brobston said. “She rolled with the punches and just did it.”
Through Kierstyn’s time at Boys Ranch, she tried several of the Experiential Learning Programs, but she found happiness and a perfect fit in the culinary arts program, where she learned to cook and bake.
“I’m more of a baker than a chef,” she said. “I made s’mores brownies for the barbecue competition in 2019. I’ve made them a long time, and that got me first place in desserts competition.”
Kierstyn competed against her peers and won the right to be on the Boys Ranch barbecue team with her rich, gooey dessert.
New Challenges on the Junior Fire Crew
The barbecue team was unable to compete in regional and state competitions in 2020 because of COVID restrictions, so Kierstyn rolled with that punch as well and found a new home working with the Boys Ranch Junior Fire Crew.
The Boys Ranch Fire Department responds to fire calls in the 600-square-mile area of Oldham County. Junior Fire Crew members respond to wildfire calls, helping to pull hoses and chop down fences. Kierstyn has been involved in several of those calls, including one memorable fire.
“We’ve been on a fire on the road headed toward Vega and had to cut down a fence and take the truck right next to the edge,” Kierstyn said with a laugh. “It was so bouncy – and it was the smallest fire I’ve ever seen.”
When Kierstyn first arrived at Boys Ranch from her home in Missouri, the first things she noticed were the lack of trees and the presence of tumbleweeds. It was pretty, she said, but very different.
“It’s very much worth the entry,” she said. “The people here are wonderful.”
A Fond Farewell
Since she settled into Romersi Two Home, Kierstyn has become close with her houseparents, Kelly and Lance Akers, and she will miss them after graduation.
“I can say the Akerses are more like parents to me, so that’s worth something.”
Boys Ranch feels like home to her now, especially her favorite spot on Little Morris Lake.
“It’s the quietest and has the best view of the lakes and the houses,” Kierstyn said.
Like seniors everywhere, Kierstyn has been making plans for after graduation. She has her driver’s license and a budget. She hopes to secure an apartment in the Cal Farley’s Alumni Support Center. From there, she will study cosmetology and follow that up with culinary classes at Amarillo College – two creative pursuits she came to love while at Boys Ranch.
“I’m going to miss the people I know, and I’m looking forward to meeting new people and having more freedom,” Kierstyn said.