Blog

First-Generation College Graduate

Tracey came to Boys and Girls Country from a family that was torn apart by drugs. Her family situation did not offer the stability needed to grow into a healthy adult, and she needed to leave that environment to avoid the pitfalls of her parents. Since 2011, BGC has been Tracey’s home.

This summer Tracey is graduating from Texas State University with a B.S. in psychology. This huge achievement makes her a first-generation college graduate. She has always been interested in the sciences, and this milestone feels like a dream coming true.

“I have enjoyed studying science, and I am passionate about helping patients,” shared Tracey.

The college experience was difficult and stressful, admits Tracey. In her five years of higher education, she was able to overcome many challenges with the support of the College & Career program.

“They offered me emotional and spiritual support to get through the tough times. I am thankful for the financial help BGC provided to earn this degree. BGC was my family through all of this,” commented Tracey.

Tracey is looking forward to graduation, even without the normal ceremony. Her next step is to find a job in the medical field so she can gain experience and save money. Her dream is to receive a Medical Lab Technician certification in the next two years so she can advance in the field of microbiology. Tracey is thankful for the amazing years at Texas State University. She enjoyed making new friends and living in San Marcos. She values the opportunities this degree offers her to build a better future. The college experience increased her perseverance and taught her to think outside of the box.


Overcoming Educational Challenges of Remote School

As of this writing, we do not yet know how COVID-19 will impact our education system, but we know that in some ways things are not going to be the same. In March, our program staff and kids had to adjust overnight to remote schooling, which required a whole new kind of organizational skills, as well as different resources and tools. Our teaching parents had to get used to the idea of becoming “homeschool teachers” to an entire cottage of kids, all with different classes and needs.

All these sudden changes were a bit trying for everyone on campus. The kids had to quickly readjust their focus and manage their related stress. The teaching parents had to establish a new structure for our kids that used to be provided at school. Some BGC students were easily able to maintain good grades and habits; others struggled to find motivation and needed more support.

Our 10 seniors, already battling “senioritis,” had to find the drive within themselves to make that last push to graduate. The path towards independence is sometimes a difficult one, and the pandemic made the future for them more uncertain. They missed their friends and the school community that played such a big role in their lives. All of these new stressors were piled on top of their past traumas that they worked so hard to overcome.

Our education lab had to make adjustments as well. Before the schools closed, 25-35 students utilized the lab on a daily basis. That number quickly grew as all our students needed computers, access to the internet, help with homework and tutoring every day.

At Boys and Girls Country, we know that education is absolutely critical for a successful future. Education will always be one of our top priorities, whether the kids are back in the school building full-time, schooling from home or some combination in between. Unfortunately, children in “out-of-home placements” like BGC are less likely than their peers to earn a high school diploma or GED, and our kids often come to us several grade levels behind their peers in key subjects. Thankfully, BGC offers the resources to help the children achieve their educational goals and exceed them.

Regardless of the challenges on our way, we will continue being there for our kids. For 49 years you have supported our mission that changed lives of more than 1,500 children and families. Some of them joined the military; others pursued technical college or bachelor’s degrees. Most importantly, they learned to not allow past trauma to affect their future.

With the new school year fast-approaching and the uncertainty still surrounding it, our kids need the love and security that BGC provides more than ever before to continue making progress in school. Your support ensures our kids are fed and have their own beds to sleep in. You also help them grow their social skills, overcome trauma and find healing and hope. All of these things allow them to focus on learning and pave the way for a better life.

We are so thankful for your support. Thanks to you, our mission is alive and the future of our children and young adults is bright.

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31


Congratulations to the Class of 2020!

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

Proverbs 16:3

The Boys and Girls Country family is extremely proud of our 10 high school graduates this year. This is an accomplishment many of them were not sure would become a reality prior to coming to BGC. Your support truly changes the trajectories of the lives of our children. Please pray for these young adults as they transition to the next phases of their lives.


Natalie

High school was so amazing! It definitely had its pros and cons, but it was a wonderful learning experience and I met great friends too. It is going to be hard to not have my friends nearby, but I am proud to have high school graduation under my belt. My educational goal is to go to Lone Star College for two years and then transfer to Texas State University. I want to study to become a physical therapist. I will miss my BGC family, especially going on cottage vacations together. Those are the best memories, and I would do it all again!


Mark

My freshman and senior year football seasons gave me a lot of great memories. I loved playing football and spending time with my friends. I was looking forward to graduation, and I was upset that the ceremony and the celebration did not happen traditionally. My goal, for now, is to get the basic courses done at Lone Star College and then transfer to a university. I would like to study architecture and work part-time at a retail store nearby. I will miss all the fun we had as a family and playing football together. BGC taught me to stay on top of my goals and not rely on teaching parents for everything.


Cameron

Although our senior year was not typical, it still went by very fast. I will miss the extracurricular activities and friends, but definitely not the stress of working on the best possible grades. I am very grateful to have received a scholarship to attend Rice University to pursue a degree in Digital Arts and Animation with an English Literature minor. I have always been passionate about art, and I think the opportunities for digital artists are plentiful. I hope to get into a work-study program or find an internship while at school. I will miss my cottage and our time together, especially playing in the gym with other cottages.


Clarisa

I could have never imagined that graduating from high school would be possible. I had a very interesting high school experience, and I will miss my teachers so much. Many people are upset that our graduation was not traditional, but I am just grateful to receive a diploma. I hope to work in a clothing store while pursuing higher education. My goal is to get in the nursing school at Lone Star College. BGC means a lot to me, and I am grateful for all the support I have received here. I will never forget the first time we went to the rodeo and basketball games together. We made so many great memories as a family here.


Marvin

I have been waiting for graduation since I started school because it always seemed impossible. I enjoyed my time in high school and made great friendships. The quarantine made things harder for all of us and made me miss my friends and teachers. I am looking forward to college and hopefully to doing some  travelling. My goal is to go to Lone Star College to get the basic courses covered and then transfer to Texas State University to study social work. I want to do something important with my life. My greatest memory about BGC is sharing my story at the Heritage Award Dinner. I was anxious, but it felt amazing to tell how God has brought me through major challenges.


Alex

Pep rallies and other activities will always stand out in my mind when I think about high school. Sadly, we did not get to experience the “end of school” things, and I will miss my friends. Graduation is a big deal for me, and I am excited about that achievement. I’m looking forward to independent living and taking a gap year. I am planning to continue my work at the daycare and then apply to Prairie View A&M. I am interested in their nursing program. BGC has done so much for me. I will miss our talks on the cottage porch with all the girls. It was great to be able to build relationships with my teaching parents and cottage sisters; they are a great support system. I will never forget our trip to Corpus Christi and the first time I ever saw the beach.


Chris

My high school experience was stressful, but I am very excited to graduate. There was a lot of work that needed to be done remotely, and I am happy I was able to get it done. This is a huge achievement for me. I hope to apply the lessons I learned and join the workforce. I am very eager to work and become independent. I know that I do not have many skills right now, but I hope to get a job where I can grow my experience. I am very interested in the trade school programs that are offered at Lone Star College as well. I will miss my cottage family and making memories together. BGC taught me a lot of lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.


Ethan

I had a great high school experience. I made a lot of new friends and also learned so many new and interesting things. I was able to find my passion for programming. I will miss hanging out with my friends in the mornings and during lunch, coding with my computer class and playing tennis with my teammates. I am going to school at Colorado College to double major in computer science and business with minors in Japanese and mathematics. I hope to be able to work part-time while going to school. My favorite memory at BGC is when we went to Caldwell together with Cottage 7. We played “capture the flag.” One of the boys gave me the flag and helped put me in a tree. During the game, some of the other boys found me and tried to make me get down, but I refused and we won that game.


Alyssa

Graduation is a big milestone for me. I had been behind in school, but I was able to catch up to my grade and graduate with my peers. I will miss my teachers and all the friends I made. I plan to continue my education and work at the same time. I have been working towards a manager position at Papa John’s, which will be a perfect job while in college. For now I am going to Lone Star College to get my basic courses done and then plan to transfer to Texas A&M University. When I finish my education, I hope to work as a veterinarian. I will never forget how BGC changed my life. My fondest memory is when Esme (one of the girls in the cottage) taught me how to read the Bible, and now I really enjoy it.


Farid

My high school experience was interesting. I learned a lot about responsibility and how to disagree appropriately. People expect a lot more from you when you become an adult. I will miss football and the excitement of playing on our team. Some of my teachers made a huge impact on me, and I will miss talking to them. Although graduation was different for our class, I am excited to have a diploma. I plan to attend Sul Ross State University and study mathematics to become an architect. I hope to be able to play on their football team as well. BGC gave me a lot, and my teaching parents were very patient with me. I appreciate all they’ve done.


A Letter From Our CEO

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of love, power, and a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

Dear Friends,

Our community has been through a lot in the past week. Our lives have changed overnight from going about our typical days to “social distancing” and panic over preparedness. We have felt fear from seeing empty grocery store shelves and having activities and school canceled. But I pray that this fear will not define our decision-making. We are in this together, and we depend on each other. I know our faith and trust in God will remain strong.

We appreciate our community of supporters now more than ever before. Without your support, more than 100 children and young adults would be very vulnerable right now. Some of them would be living in shelters or be homeless, and others would not have their basic needs met and be unsure when they’d receive their next meal. Thank you for giving our kids a loving home during such an unstable time. Thanks to you they have nurturing parents, their own beds to sleep in and a safe home while school is out.

I want to ensure you that the safety of our children and our staff is the paramount goal at Boys and Girls Country. We have taken measures to follow the CDC and other (local) official guidelines to hopefully avoid cases of the virus on our campus or to curtail the spread if anyone tests positive. Temporarily, all visitors are restricted from coming to campus.

The volatility of the stock market and the slowdown in the oil industry will put a strain on the resources of our organization and community as a whole. We will continue our commitment to our mission and pray that the economic ramifications of the pandemic will not interrupt our service to the children of the Greater Houston area.

We are praying for your safety and well-being during this difficult and uncertain time. We hope that you will be able to join us in prayer.

Please pray:

  • For those who are afflicted by the virus, that may receive the healing and help they need.
  • That the spread of this virus will be halted.
  • For the medical personnel, first responders and those who work tirelessly to contain the spread of the virus.
  • For the safety of our cottage families and staff.

Here are some ways you can help and stay in touch:

  • Share with us your prayer requests through this Facebook post or by sending us a Facebook message privately.
  • Consider helping out with supplies for our kids by purchasing items on our BGC Amazon list. Please remember to choose “Boys and Girls Country of Houston” as the beneficiary of your Amazon purchases by logging into your account with Amazon Smile.

Thank you for your continued friendship.  May God bless you and your families!

Vince Duran


Update Regarding COVID-19

Boys and Girls Country is closely monitoring the situation around COVID-19. As recommended by the CDC and other health professionals, we are taking measures to continue to provide a safe home for our children.

Boys and Girls Country is unable to welcome outside visitors to our campus or accept new children in our program. Please contact us at (281) 351-4976 if you have questions or need assistance.

In accordance with the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more, we have made the decision to postpone our 2020 ride scheduled for April 18 and cancel our Spring Festival scheduled for May 2, 2020. The health and safety of our guests, volunteers, staff and community are of the utmost importance, and our hearts go out to all who have been affected.

Current economic forecasts, the volatility of the stock market and the slowdown in the oil industry have put a strain on our resources and those of the entire community. However, we remain committed to our mission of changing the lives of children from families in crisis by loving and nurturing them in a Christian home environment, raising them to become self-sustaining and contributing adults.

Although visitors are temporarily restricted from our campus, you can still make a difference in our kids’ lives! Opportunities for your consideration include:

  • Making a secure donation online.
  • Purchasing supplies from our BGC Amazon list:
    (Remember to choose “Boys and Girls Country of Houston” as the charitable organization to receive donations from eligible purchases through AmazonSmile.)
  • Praying for our kids and staff, that:
    • Their physical, emotional and spiritual needs will be met;
    • Our students will persevere through the tough adjustments to the new norm;
    • Our teaching parents will continue being encouraged and strengthened to lead our children towards becoming self-sustaining and contributing adults;
    • Our operations will be able to continue providing for the needs of the cottages, and the donations will not subside.

We welcome your encouragements in the form of Facebook messages, emails to supportkids@boysandgirlscountry.org, physical letters and even text messages. You can subscribe to receive short text updates from Boys and Girls Country by texting “BGC” to 22999 and reply back with anything you’d like to share.

Thank you for your continued friendship.  May God bless you and your families!


Houston Community Gathers to Raise $2 Million for At-Risk Children

Thank you to our underwriters, volunteers and guests for making the 2019 Heritage Award Dinner a wonderful success. Together, we raised over $2 million for children from families in crisis! Your gifts are an investment in their future, helping them to make a mark on the world.

Hosted at the Hilton Americas Hotel on Wednesday, October 30, the event featured stories of the impact BGC makes on children’s lives, a gourmet dinner, silent and live auctions and entertainment by Jeff Foxworthy. It attracted more than 1,000 guests, including Houston’s influential philanthropists and business owners.

The event honored the philanthropic achievements of the Scianna family who invest their time, talent and treasure in various community organizations like Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, Waller Area Chamber of Commerce, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Reach Unlimited and others. Chuck Scianna is the President and Co-founder of Sim-Tex, L.P., a leading supplier of oil country tubular goods to the oil and gas industry. Chuck has served on the BGC board of directors, and the entire family has been involved for more than a decade with Spring Festival and sponsoring one of the cottages.

“We believe in having a diversified philanthropic investment portfolio, and BGC is on top of our list. We can go out and see the return on investment every day. We can see the productivity, we can see what the kids are getting and we can see the dedication of the staff out there and the teaching parents. It’s a huge payback,” shared Mr. Scianna during the award acceptance speech.

“We are blessed because of all of our supporters; they have stepped up and shown just how much they care. Even though our children come from hard places, I am here to tell you that they find hope and they find healing at BGC,” commented Vincent Duran, Chief Executive Officer at Boys and Girls Country.

Major underwriters of the event included American First National Bank, Hugesen Polymers USA, L.P., Gatewood Family Foundation, Herr Family, Stephens Family, Amegy Bank, Lisa and Bo Pierce, Sim-Tex, L.P., Paul and Staci Sorensen, Southwestern Energy. For more information about Heritage Award Dinner, visit this page.

To view event photos visit our Facebook page.


Healing In a Christian Community

For many years our children have been given the opportunity to participate in a unique retreat called Vida Nueva. Vida Nueva (VN) is a three-day Christian retreat weekend and movement for youth, encouraging teenagers to commit their lives to Jesus Christ and to live as Christian leaders in their home, church and school. The young adults spend the weekend growing in a community, sharing their testimonies, strengthening social skills and making friendships that will last a lifetime.

The majority of children who live at Boys and Girls Country are 13-18 years old, and many of them choose to participate in a VN retreat. The weekend includes a series of talks given by clergy, youth and adults, all adhering to the basic themes of Christianity in its day-to-day application, and are followed by table discussions. The format is designed to help teens break down the barriers of fear and anxiety around peers, help them see their value through Christ and discover their potential to serve others.

BGC kids who have participated – many of whom have experienced trauma in the past – say it changed their lives. The transformation is not easy, however, because it requires trust, vulnerability and lots of prayers. Given that most of our kids come from unstable environments, they hesitate to open up to others, especially their peers. Overcoming that first step proves to be a crucial moment for many of them.

Thankfully, their spiritual growth does not stop at the retreat. VN members and leaders hold weekly, in-depth bible studies for our children. Some of our kids also serve on VN committees, allowing them to grow as leaders, guide newcomers, reconnect with friends and contribute to the growth of their Christian community.

For Marvin, his first VN retreat was life-changing. He was inspired to be baptized and commit his life to Christ, and it helped him grow from a shy and disconnected teenager into a campus leader who participates in 4-H, the Leadership Council and Teen Court.

“I loved spending time with my peers there. At first, I did not understand how opening up to people could be beneficial. Then I realized that it gives me an opportunity to connect with others on the deeper level. It helped me build relationships with my cottage brothers at BGC and encourage them to participate in VN. I am forever grateful for this opportunity that helped me discover my passion for helping others,” shared Marvin.

Striving toward God is something all the children at Boys and Girls Country are encouraged to do. It helps them understand that God has given them the ability, and responsibility, to change the lives of people around them at school and in the community.


Cora’s Fight for Education

Cora has a contagious smile and is one of the happiest kids at Boys and Girls Country. She has a shy personality but is very open-hearted. There is a sense of gratitude that resides within Cora’s heart. She rejoices that she survived her past and now calls Boys and Girls Country her home.

The first 16 years of Cora’s life were filled with the fear of being hurt or raped. She survived one day at a time hoping to be rescued. Her stepfather abused her both physically and emotionally. She could not comprehend how a person who is supposed to be a father would do such things. The worst part was that everyone in her life believed her stepfather was a gracious and caring person. Cora’s mother was not able to help; she was another victim of Cora’s stepfather. They were both dependent on him to get by, and it made Cora feel lonely and hopeless.

Cora was tired of suffering. She was afraid her high school graduation would be in jeopardy. She was terrified to miss the only opportunity she saw in life – education. Cora had always loved learning and felt receiving an education would be her only escape from the prison of abuse.

Cora has been at Boys and Girls Country less than a year. Unlike some other teenagers on campus, she really wanted to be here from day one. She was eager to be loved and safe, and she had been begging God to give her a new life where she was not abused daily. Since the first day Cora arrived here, her smile has not faded. She feels the freedom of being a kid who is loved, cared for and valued for the first time in her life. She is overwhelmed with the support she receives, from her daily needs being met to the opportunities she has at school and finally shining a light on the atrocities committed against her and her mother.

Cora’s senior year of high school was not filled with fear, but with happy memories, new friendships, academic success and color guard experience. She was able to focus on the passion that God has placed in her heart. She graduated high school with a cosmetology license and hair extension certification. Her passion for make-up is her gateway to a successful job after graduation.

Your investment has made this victory possible for Cora. She is no longer a victim of abuse. You helped her break the cycle of pain that would have impeded her success in life. Thanks to you, she has confidence, strength and faith that whatever hardships are ahead she is prepared to face them.

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27


Vince’s View: Our kids are All Stars

Vince Duran and his two sons: Lucas and Connor.

This year, Boys and Girls Country of Houston partnered with the Waller County Sports Association (WCSA) to give our kids the opportunity to play little league baseball and softball. As a result, many of our kids are playing an organized sport for the first time. What a joy it is to see our children hitting and catching the ball and having a great time. Some of our kids have hit their first home run, and some of them have found a position they may play for many years to come. A few of them were even selected for the WCSA All- Star Team.

I have to admit there have been some hard lessons learned along the way. There have been errors, strikeouts and losses. Over the years I have heard people say, “Playing sports builds character.” While I do believe playing sports can teach children important lessons about leadership and hard work, I know that playing sports does reveal character. In sports, we see the players who blame others when times get tough, and we see those who rise to the occasion when faced with adversity. We all hope that our kids will be the latter.

We know without a doubt that every child at Boys and Girls Country is an All Star! Their all-star status goes far beyond a batting average or performance on the field. Every player has a fan club, a group of people who support and cheer them on regardless of wins and losses. One of my favorite quotes is from psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner who once said, “Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.” At Boys and Girls Country, we are insanely crazy about the children we serve and their successes. But, more importantly, we tell our children their Heavenly Father is their Creator and very biggest fan. The psalmist in the Old Testament declared, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14 English Standard Version). 

My prayer is that our kids will continue to have the confidence that we are in their corner, and we applaud their every effort, win or lose.

It has been another busy summer at Boys and Girls Country as our kids participate in on-campus enrichment programs and enjoy cottage vacations. Church youth camps are always a highlight as our kids continue their spiritual growth development. We had a large senior class this year – 13 All Stars have successfully entered our College and Career Program. Once again, you helped us make this happen, and we are grateful for your ongoing support.


Look at our college graduates!

Joseph has been a resident of Boys and Girls Country since 2011. He was severely malnourished when he arrived, but it didn’t take long before he started seeing improvements in his health, succeeding at school and taking a leadership role in his cottage.

This May, Joseph graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He is grateful for the chance to attend college and to develop friendships that will last for the rest of his life.

“I would not be here today if BGC did not help me become a better person,” he added.

Denisha

Denisha basically began taking care of herself when she was 7 years old. At the age of 12, she came to live at Boys and Girls Country. Though it was all new, she appreciated the security her new home offered and was grateful for teaching parents who cared about her well-being. Denisha became a leader on campus and excelled in school.

Denisha recently graduated from University of North Texas with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. Moving to Denton, living alone and being independent was challenging, but she is grateful for the opportunity to pursue her education. Denisha has accepted a position with an emergency room, and she plans to apply for graduate school and pursue a career as a physician’s assistant.

“Higher education was always a part of my plan and something I knew I would do, but BGC made it possible for me to go to college. I hope one day to give back to the place that molded me into the person I am today,” Denisha said.

Joseph

Joseph has lived at Boys and Girls Country since the age of 13 after losing both parents. He was a diligent student in high school and completed dual-credit courses. While attending community college, Joseph held a full-time job at Russo’s Pizzeria. He was rewarded for his strong work ethic by being promoted to a manager.

In May, Joseph graduated from Lone Star College-Tomball with an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree. This summer he is transferring to University of Houston-Downtown to work towards a bachelor’s degree in communications.  He is determined to pursue his dream of becoming a sports commentator.

“I could have never imagined that this graduation would ever happen in my life. I am so grateful for the educational opportunities BGC provides,” commented Joseph.

For more info on our recent college graduates, be on the lookout for our summer newsletter in your mailbox soon!