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From Crisis to Confidence

by Lucy Worley, Digital Media Coordinator

For many teenagers, the challenges that lie between them and the milestone of graduating high school are the typical coming-of-age bumps in the road. For others, it is much more of an uphill battle.

Heartlight Ministries is a Christian Boarding School that exists as a residential counseling center for teenagers in at-risk lifestyles. Many students enter the program dealing with anger, suicidal tendencies, self-harm and various other struggles. Located in Hallsville Texas, Heartlight is home to over 50 teenagers and offers a safe haven of hope. They have seen countless teens graduate from their program, go on to graduate high school, and thrive in life.

However, not long after starting the ministry in 1988, founders Mark and Jan Gregston realized they needed to implement an educational component to the program. Academic Director Mariah Blalock explained, "Students will come and stay at Heartlight up to a year. Taking that amount of time away from their education was creating re-entry problems when they would return to school. We wanted them to have a way to continue and even advance their education while they spent time here."

That is when TTUISD entered the picture.

Searching for a flexible and state accredited curriculum, Heartlight decided to implement TTUISD as a part of their program. The results have proven TTUISD to be a valuable addition to the Heartlight experience.

"The flexible deadlines TTUISD offers are actually very encouraging to our students. Given the freedom, some will even end up working ahead." Blalock added that another component the students enjoy is the teacher feedback and involvement. "When TTUISD teachers meet our students half way - it's huge. Many of these students' education have suffered because of something going on in their personal life, but in reality, they are oftentimes a very bright student. Sometimes that gets overlooked in a public school setting."

Blalock went on to share that their students have had a very different experience with TTUISD instructors. She said that while firm and fair, the instructors provide a level of patience and understanding that makes all the difference.

More than that, when students start excelling in the TTUISD curriculum, they start excelling in other areas. Blalock explains that as their students get a taste of academic success, they are more willing to tackle challenges in other areas of life, whether that be emotional, relational, or any other arena. She says, "When students arrive here, they hate school. However, once we sit down with a student, make a plan and teach them to navigate the TTUISD curriculum, they get excited because they realize how simple learning can be. Teens who were failing out of high school gain a tremendous amount of confidence, and that translates to everything else they do."

Many students who graduate out of Heartlight continue on with TTUISD because of the pride they have in the work they have accomplished.

Heartlight is one of many examples of how TTUISD continues to supply exemplary education with the flexibility needed in non-traditional settings. The TTUISD faculty and staff are proud to partner with Heartlight and are honored to share in the journey of its students.