On paper, Zoey’s story had a ring of familiarity. She was starting to run with a bad crowd, getting into trouble, and failing in school. She and her
family agreed that something needed to change. However, when Zoey arrived at the Youth Ranches, everyone immediately noticed that there was nothing typical about this young woman.
“When I first got here, honestly, I liked it a lot. It was a family.” Even though Zoey was excited about the atmosphere of the Ranch, like most boys and girls who are new to the program, the transition was a little rocky. Zoey moved into the girl’s cottage on campus and had to quickly learn how to navigate different social situations. Sometimes it felt easier just to stay in her room.
“Eventually I started going out and talking to people and going to the different activities,” Zoey said. “I came more out of my shell.”
Once everyone met the real Zoey, it became evident that she was a driven and outgoing person. After sitting down with the teachers at the Donald Ralph Cooke School, they came up with a plan to help Zoey catch up and graduate on time. Zoey jumped at the opportunity, impressing all of her teachers with her intelligence and determination.
“Once I started school at the Ranch, I got ahead. I was always passing with an A/B average, nothing less,” Zoey said. Education is vital to Zoey’s plans for the future.
After graduating a semester early, she was accepted at Polk State College and moved to the Polk Sheriff’s Charities Scholarship House to get started on her AA degree.
“I plan on getting my nursing degree and eventually going to med school to get my cardiac surgery license,” she explained.
This career path might sound daunting to some, but for Zoey, it’s a goal she has carried with her since she was a child.
“Cardiac surgery is a big thing because one of my friends died of cardiac arrest. I want to do better and help people.”
All Zoey needed was a path forward. Her ambition and determination took care of the rest. At the Youth Ranches, she not only got access to educational tools to get ahead, she also got a chance to participate in campus activities like Riding Ranchers.
“I love to be outside and I love riding horses,” she said. “I learned a lot. When you’re just riding with friends, you’re not learning patterns and what to do with a horse if something happens. So there’s definitely a lot of training lessons I learned in the Riding Ranchers.”
As part of the Riding Ranchers, Zoey rode in the Grand Entry Ceremony at the 62nd Annual Boys Ranch Open House and Horse Show. The Riding Ranchers practice for months to memorize and guide their horses through a complex choreographed riding routine.
Another thing that made a big difference in Zoey’s time at the Ranch was the cottage parents and staff who continued to encourage her on her journey.
“The people that took me aside and talked to me—that had a big part in what turned me around,” she said. “I had a lot of big things going for me here.”
With encouragement from the staff and friends she made in her cottage, Zoey continued to improve during her time at the Ranch. She has risen above all expectations and created a solid plan for her future. Her personality shines through everything she does, and she is excited for the opportunities to meet and talk with new people as a college student.
Looking back, Zoey knows she wouldn’t have been able to get this far without them help of the Ranch. Without your support, none of this would be possible! The unique atmosphere of the Youth Ranches, the academic opportunities, and the family of staff that is dedicated to seeing her succeed—all of this helped put Zoey on a path toward a bright future.