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When Malaki arrived at the Boys Ranch six years ago, he wasn’t sure what to expect. After he started getting in trouble at school, his adopted family looked for a solution to help him stay focused and develop better social skills. But Malaki’s past experiences had left him worried about what others would think of him.

“In school, they would call me weird,” Malaki said. “And I started believing it.”

He was afraid being at the Ranch would bring more of the same ridicule he had come to expect from other kids.

“Am I going to be too weird?” he remembers thinking. “Are they going to like me? Are the kids going to respect me?”

Being considered “weird” can simply mean not following the crowd. It can be having different interests or tastes that doesn’t fit the norm. Not long after he came to live at the Ranch, Malaki realized something life-changing:

“I came to find out that most of the kids here are weird,” he said.

Being “weird” doesn’t stop a Rancher from accomplishing their goals. Malaki dove into the culture at the Ranch with enthusiasm, quickly becoming one of the most well-known faces around campus.

Soon he joined the Farm Program, where he participated in the Heifer Program for the last four years. As a younger kid, handling a heifer and getting it ready for the fair was tough work. Now 16-year-old Malaki is a resident expert.

In addition to the Heifer Program, Malaki also competed in wrestling at Suwannee High School and is the County Delegate for the Suwannee 4-H Club and a State District Delegate. The young boy who was worried what others would think about him has become a proud, confident teenager.

“People like it better if you are actually yourself and don’t try to be someone else,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to show your true colors.”

While at the Ranch, Malaki did what all Ranchers are asked to do and applied for a job on campus. He was hired in the Administration Building to clean the offices. Recently, Malaki felt it was time for a change. Even though he enjoyed his time working at the Administration Building, there was a chance for him to try a new challenge.

“I think I was ready for a new change, to see what real jobs and real life work is like,” Malaki said.

He recently applied to a local fast food restaurant and was hired.

It was important to Malaki that he showed a lot of respect to his former employer when he moved on to his new job.

“It’s good to put your two weeks in so they know you’re leaving,” Malaki said. “I said it had been great working with them, but I needed to branch out and had an opportunity to do something new.”

Showing respect is Malaki’s number one priority. Looking back, this piece of advice is the most important thing he has learned since being at the Ranch.

“Respect others, respect yourself, because that will get you far in life,” Malaki said. “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

This attitude is evident in the way Malaki treats his fellow Ranchers, cottage parents, and staff at the Ranch. He is protective of the people who have become his family, and this passion fuels his plans for the future.

“I don’t like people not being able to be there, because I know how it feels to not have someone there,” he said. “The family part of the Ranch is a really big thing in my life.”

Malaki plans to graduate high school and become a doctor. He also would like to start outreach programs for people who need a little help.

“That’s one of the reasons I want to be a doctor,” Malaki explained.

“I plan on opening up hospitals, homeless shelters, orphanages—making sure that kids and families have homes and that they’re not left behind.”