LEARNING TO DRIVE, going out with friends, getting a cell phone, accepting your first job offer—all of these are normal rites of passage for teenagers, and it is no different for students at STCH Ministries Homes for Children. Students on the campus who are at least 15-years-old can join the Transitional Living Program. Through the program, they take driving lessons, receive a cell phone, gain more independence and can even apply to work off campus. Students strive to be a part of this program.
The Transitional Living Program includes basic life-skills training and the opportunity for students to practice those skills as they work toward living independently. There are three levels in the program with greater independence at each level. To enter Level 1, the student must have a valid Texas driver’s permit, receive recommendations from a houseparent, caseworker and administrative staff member and be willing to cooperate with staff. Once on Level 1, the student can take driving lessons with a houseparent, receive a cell phone and have two nights out each week with approval. “I love being able to go out with friends and having more freedom,” said Laura, 16.
Once students complete driving hours, receive their driver’s license and show responsibility, they can look toward Level 2. One of the main qualifications for Level 2 is they must have adequate funds to open a checking account. Students on the campus receive allowances, and when they start the Transitional Living Program, their allowance increases. Houseparents teach students the importance of saving money and budgeting. Caseworkers sit down with the students to make sure that their accounts stay in good standing. The ability to open and maintain a checking account is important for independent living once they leave Boothe Campus.
The highest level of the Transitional Living Program is Level 3. Level 3 is for high school seniors who receive letters of recommendation from three staff members. Students on Level 3 experience the greatest amount of independence. They are allowed to go out any night of the week and earn the largest amount of money. Students on Level 2 and 3 are able and encouraged to get a job off campus. Any money that the student makes goes into their account, and they are responsible for how the money is spent.
In August 2020, Homes for Children received a donated vehicle from Christopher Rohlfing—a generous and thoughtful gift—to be used as the transitional living vehicle. This vehicle is used by students on Level 1 to practice their driving with their houseparents, while students on Level 2 and 3 can reserve the vehicle to drive to school, work or to go out with friends. Currently there are seven students in the program, so they must communicate and work together to ensure that everyone is given a chance to use the vehicle when needed. The program also helps students learn how to care for vehicles with tutorials in changing a tire and checking the oil.
Students can also save money to purchase a vehicle of their own. They are required to carry insurance on the vehicle and maintain it properly. Two students currently in the program have worked hard to purchase a vehicle of their own and continue to work hard to maintain it. “I love that Homes for Children lets me have my own truck. It’s a big responsibility, but I love rising to the challenge,” said Amber, 17. This is a huge accomplishment for any teenager, and STCH Ministries is proud of their hard work and dedication to get to this point.
Applying for and receiving an offer for a job is a lifechanging moment for teenagers, and students at Boothe Campus are no different. Two of the Transitional Living Program students currently work to save money for a vehicle, college and other personal items. “I am very thankful that STCH Ministries gives me the opportunity to work and learn the important life skills that come from having a job,” Drae, 17, shared. “It is also nice to have my own money and to learn how to manage it.” Drae works at a local fast food restaurant while Edna works at a local country store. Both students love the opportunity to earn money for themselves and the feeling of responsibility that comes with a job. “It is awesome to have the experience of a real job while still living within the comfort of Homes for Children,” Edna, 18, stated. “It means a lot to know that I have them as a support system.”
Being in the Transitional Living Program is a privilege and comes with more responsibility. “Being in the program means you have your act together,” Laura stated. On top of the required recommendations, the students hold more responsibilities which they must maintain to stay in the program. One requirement is the students must maintain passing grades in all subjects. School remains a priority for all of the students on the Homes for Children campus, and those in the program set an example for others. Students in the program are also required to help prepare at least two meals in the cottage each month. Learning how to cook is a skill that will help the students once they graduate and leave Boothe Campus. Church is also a requirement. Those in the program are required to attend chapel on Wednesday nights and church on Sundays. Their spiritual walk is the most important part of their growth.
Homes for Children works hard to ensure that students never feel like they missed something. They help pay for class rings, invitations to graduation, senior pictures and other activities that high schoolers encounter. “Normalcy is key for these students,” Greg Huskey, vice president of Homes for Children shared. “We don’t want them to leave here feeling like they missed out.” Students appreciate the help that they receive from STCH Ministries.
Growing up is challenging. Earning more independence and responsibility while still being in the safety of the campus can help prevent students from struggling after Homes for Children. “God has given us an opportunity to share His love with the kids He has brought to us. The Transitional Living Program is an opportunity for us to give our kids a skill-based foundation, coupled with the message of Christ Jesus on which they can build their life on, long after they leave us,” Timothy Hadley, Boothe Campus director, stated. STCH Ministries Homes for Children puts emphasis on the long-term benefits of the Transitional Living Program and wants to see every student that passes through Boothe Campus succeed in life long after they leave.