Much has changed for Jackie from the moment she and her four sisters first walked through the door of Mills Home’s administration building to when she walked across the auditorium stage to receive her high school diploma. It’s only been one year between these two life-changing events but everything is now different for the 18-year-old.
“My little sisters were holding onto me that first day,” Jackie recalls. “They see me as their protector –– and I kind of see them as my kids.”
Jackie was often a mother figure for her siblings. Before coming to Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) Thomasville campus, she would wake her sisters for school and cook for them if needed.
“I missed a lot of school, especially my freshman year, because I was taking care of them,” Jackie reveals. “It was important to me that they got up and went to school.”
Jackie’s grades suffered because of her commitment to her sisters, but things changed when the Department of Social Services removed the siblings from their family home. In BCH’s care, Jackie was suddenly surrounded with support from case manager Rae Francis and cottage parents Dan and Alice Arrington and Gene and Dana Byrd.
Although the move was important to Jackie and her sisters’ well being, it was a huge transition and not an easy one at first.
“I didn’t want to change schools. It was my senior year, and I wanted to graduate there,” Jackie admits. “Looking back, I wouldn’t have accomplished a lot staying where I was.”
She says the support of Mills Home has been key to her success.
“Ms. Rae helped me with everything,” Jackie says of her case manager. “She encouraged me to do better in school and found me a math tutor.”
“She’s really grown in the time she’s been at Mills Home,” Rae says. “We’ve poured encouragement into her and she has really responded.”
Few in Jackie’s family have accomplished what she has. “I’ve graduated from high school, and I’m the first person in my family to go to college.”
Jackie is taking courses at a local community college while working to build
her savings. Her plans are to transfer to a four-year college.
At her age, she is her own legal guardian and Jackie could choose to leave Mills Home, but she’s chosen to stay so she may have the best opportunity to achieve her goals.
“It’s about the support I have here,” Jackie asserts. “If I were to leave, I wouldn’t have Ms. Rae and others to help me.”
“Her decision says a lot,” Rae says. “She has support from us, but she’s the one who’s doing it. She is doing the hard work. She’s motivated to make her dreams a reality.”
While Jackie has been able to focus on her dreams, she has still been able to be there for her sisters. BCH is one of the few providers that has the ability to keep siblings together.
“They have really grown since coming to Mills Home,” Jackie confides. “I don’t have to be worried about them now.”
You can support Jackie and other children by making an online gift to Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina today at www.bchfamily.org/givenow