A common remark Ranchers will make about their first impression of the Youth Ranches is the structure. Our programs are designed so that boys and girls develop a sense of responsibility, familiarity and safety. Ranchers wake up in a safe home and know what is expected of them. They know their Mom and Pop are going to help them get ready for school, they will have something to eat for breakfast, and when they get home in the afternoon there will be chores, homework, and family dinner.
The Ranchers who recognize that this lifestyle is beneficial to their personal growth tend to seek the same type of structure outside of the Ranch. Ari and Beonca both found familiarity in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program at their high school.
“I have a community at the Ranch, but I never really had that community at school before joining JROTC,” Ari said.
Beonca joined JROTC for the same reason many students do: She wanted to enlist in the Navy after graduating high school. While in the program, she discovered that the values and principles instilled in recruits were helping her become a better leader and a better person.
“It’s not all about doing it so that it’ll show up when I do enlist,” Beonca said. “It’s more about bettering myself as a citizen, developing leadership skills, having self confidence, and having self-discipline.”
Before coming to the Ranch, Beonca’s life was devoid of any form of structure. “It was probably one of the worst environments possible because of my school and my area,” she said. “I was failing.”
Life at the Ranch and in JROTC gave Beonca exactly what she wanted: an opportunity to better herself. “I strive for perfection in pretty much everything I do. I just want to know that I’ve done my best.”
Ari’s growth since living at the Ranch followed a similar path to Beonca’s. As a young teenager, lack of structure and immaturity fed his aimlessness and led him into trouble.
“I wasn’t really that mature,” Ari said. “I messed around, snuck out of school every so often.” A lifelong love of the ocean and his success at the Ranch prompted him to enroll in the Naval JROTC program. “I’m held to a higher standard now so I don’t risk that stuff anymore.” Even though he began as a junior, Ari took on more classes and pushed himself to catch up.
Part of the JROTC program is learning and implementing the principles of leadership. These guidelines have resonated with both Ari and Beonca, carrying over into their everyday lives at the Ranch. They stand out as leaders in their cottages.
“You have to set the example,” Ari said. “If you’re going to be a higher rank, you have to show maturity so the younger kids have someone to look up to.”
Ari takes time to talk with other youth in his cottage who are interested in the JROTC program. He encourages them to try and give 100 percent.
Beonca, the oldest girl in her cottage, took it upon herself to be a leader to her cottage siblings. She said, “One of our principles of leadership is ‘Know your people.’ You have to know who you’re working with and we’re working as a team in the cottage.” She prioritized listening to the other girls and using their feedback to change her own behavior.
“One really important thing I’ve shown in the cottage is positivity, boosting morale.” When something needs to be done, Beonca steps up and encourages her family to work together and push through. Motivation to better oneself as a teenager is a rare find. It takes self-awareness, determination, and maturity.
Ari and Beonca have shown great progress both at the Ranch and in the JROTC program. They have become leaders in their cottages and worked to grow as individuals. Along the way, they found a family they can rely on. “That’s why I love being here at the Ranch,” Beonca said. “We’re a family. I love the family environment and feeling like a family.”
Her JROTC unit feels like being at the Ranch. “They make me feel like I matter to the unit.”