Out beyond the stands at the rodeo arena, a teenager rides a horse in a circle as she prepares for the goat tying event at the rodeo. Inside the arena, more than 1,000 people are cheering wildly.
The girl makes one last turn and races her horse toward the in-gate. Suddenly, the sound of the crowd dies out, and all the rider can hear is the sound of her horse’s hooves. At the end of the arena, she jumps off her horse, ties her goat and throws her arms triumphantly in the air.
Sarah’s practice paid off at the 2022 rodeo. She placed third and will take home a beautiful belt buckle as a memory of her time at Boys Ranch. As a senior, she’s looking toward the future and her role in it.
Sarah slipped into Boys Ranch life easily. She was from a rural family. Sarah loved horses, and she embraced the ranch lifestyle. Boys Ranch was a natural fit for her nurturing spirit.
The Horse Program was a Natural Fit.
“My grandma had a couple of horses, and I would stay at my grandma’s all the time,” Sarah said. “She had a horse named Little Bit that I loved.”
Sarah loves being outside and staying busy, so she first sampled the horticulture Experiential Learning Program and then moved into the equine program.
It was the right place for Sarah. She developed strong relationships with her mentors, Mike and Margaret Lowe, while enjoying being around horses every afternoon.
“Sarah’s horsemanship skills have improved tremendously, and she’s always willing to do what you ask her,” Lowe said. “She’s a joy to have at the barn.”
In the equine program, Sarah has done everything from saddle horses to helping run the roping chutes. Helping is in her nature.
“I love riding, because I feel free, and the horse can feel what I feel,” Sarah said. “People say, ‘I can feel what you feel.’ The reality is they can’t. The horse can tell when you’re upset or nervous, and they let you know by how they react. It’s like a self-check. It calms me down.”
Sarah Found Friends in Her Home.
At Romersi Three Home, Sarah has also learned the importance of patience and slowing down. She has close bonds with her primary houseparents, Sandy and Jesse Pape.
“Sarah came to us with a heart full of desire to succeed and to experience all that Boys Ranch had to offer her,” Mrs. Pape said. “She dove in head-first, taking full advantage of every opportunity that came her way. Some things tested her limits and required overcoming her own fears. Some things required learning to trust that she would be loved and cared for by both her family and the staff at Boys Ranch whether she succeeded or failed in her attempts.”
Watching Sarah mature has been a joy, Mrs. Pape said.
“She will leave a hole in our home when she is gone and will remain in our hearts forever,” Mrs. Pape said. “We are grateful to have shared life with her.”
At the home, Sarah made friends with girls from a wide variety of backgrounds.
“It is definitely an interesting experience,” Sarah said with a laugh. “We all grew up with different backgrounds. Now we may have some of the same parts of backgrounds, but they’re all very different.”
Sarah Built a New Relationship With Her Family.
Before Sarah came to Boys Ranch, she was sent to live with her father, who had remarried. It didn’t go well. From the beginning, the teenager and her new stepmother clashed.
“I had it out for her, because I wanted my biological mom so bad,” Sarah said. “I didn’t want to accept that I had another mom in my life, and I resented her for that. So things with me and my stepmom were always rough, and I did a whole lot of things that I wasn’t supposed to do.”
At Boys Ranch, Sarah said, she has been able to grow up enough to understand other people’s perspectives.
“I have learned a lot, and I’ve grown a lot,” Sarah said. “I’m still a little shy. I’ve gotten more outgoing since being here. I’ve started to understand what it’s like to be a nice and caring person – to try to have empathy for others and not only be about myself.”
While all the staff members at Boys Ranch have been helpful in the learning process, Sarah said, Mrs. Pape gave her the advice that resonated the most: Be patient.
“I struggle with being patient, but she always reminds me it’s OK,” Sarah said. “Things will work out how they want to work out.”
One of the things that has worked out is Sarah’s relationship with her stepmother and her father. She speaks with them frequently and looks forward to knowing them better as she moves into adulthood.
Sarah Prepares to Tackle Adulthood With Gratitude.
Sarah plans to take her patience and kind heart to become a nurse, possibly a pediatric nurse or a geriatric nurse.
“I love hearing younger kids’ stories,” Sarah said. “They’re so crazy. And at the same time, older people’s stories, they’re crazy too, you know? I just love listening.”
As she contemplates adult life, Sarah is grateful for her time at Boys Ranch.
“I would like to thank donors for giving us clothes on our back, giving us a roof overhead, giving us food to eat,” Sarah said. “You know, that’s not a promise all the time in life, but it’s really reassuring to get those necessities.”