A note from Greenbrier Academy: While leaving home to attend Greenbrier Academy for Girls can be a bit scary at first, our girls often come to find that after months at Greenbrier, they have a wonderful second home and a huge “extended family” of supportive and caring friends. Many students come back to visit or keep up their correspondence with us, especially through our Aftercare Program. Students write about their experiences in many different forums. Here, alumni Maddie shares one of her summaries of her journey of growth through her teenage years and at Greenbrier.
The messages, people, and experience at Greenbrier Academy for Girls as a whole have had a significant impact not only on me but also on my family and everyone around me. At Greenbrier Academy I learned that everyone has a history and that I should embrace mine in order to make my present and future better. Up until the 8th grade, I was a model student and a typical kid. My parents had separated several years prior, and I chose to live with my dad, taking on extra responsibilities to make sure he was okay. I was very feisty and sassy, but nevertheless, I was a normal 13-year-old. In school I was an honor student; I respected my teachers; I had a good head on my shoulders. Suddenly, in the middle of my 8th grade year, my dad died. My life turned to shambles. The three years between my dad dying and the start of my journey at Greenbrier Academy were filled with misery. I searched for acceptance in all the wrong places and lost what little of myself I had left.
Going into Greenbrier Academy I was self-centered and disrespectful to myself and everyone around me, ignorant of morals, and in an unfathomable amount of pain. At first I was resistant to the change and knowledge that was being offered to me. Although I acquired the fundamentals of what it is to be a good person while I was in my wilderness program, making the commitment to implement the change still scared me. Admitting I needed help meant I would be vulnerable to so many people and situations. The most intimidating part of it all was that I would have to take accountability for my actions and start building my relationships from the ground up. I say with all the confidence in the world that if I had been anywhere besides Greenbrier Academy, I would have failed.
Something I benefited from greatly at Greenbrier Academy was the therapy sessions with my mom. Prior to Greenbrier Academy, I didn’t have a relationship with my mom. Our communication was less than adequate and quite frankly, I loathed her. Together, we learned how to express ourselves in a calm, rational manner and more importantly, how to listen. I learned to respect my mom for where she is at in her life as opposed to where I would like her to be. My mom gained a deeper understanding of me and what I was going through. I don’t live with her anymore, but I talk to her every single day. No matter how I fear she will react, I am honest with her about everything and vice versa. Our relationship goes beyond mother-daughter; she’s my friend too.
The unconditional support and love I was given every day at Greenbrier is something I know I will never find anywhere else. I was treated like an adult and given choices to make. Many times I was put into situations where I had to decipher between what is right and wrong. No matter what decision I made, I was supported. Every student’s new ideas and opinions were welcome and encouraged. It was made very apparent that we—as the students—made the school. The respect I was given and the expectations set for me by the staff helped me gain self-respect. By seeing what others expected of me, I learned to set my expectations higher. I did this not for them but for me…because I became to know I was worthy of it.
The academic aspect of Greenbrier Academy was different from my original high school. At my original high school, the smallest class I had contained 27 students. There was no one-on-one attention, and it was easy to slip into the cracks. When I got to Greenbrier Academy, I was the third student ever. I benefited from that so much more because even as the school kept growing, the class sizes stayed small. If I was having difficulty in a specific class, it was much easier to notice and fix. The approach taken by the teachers is also completely different from a traditional high school; our classes were interactive and actually enjoyable. The most incredible thing about the academic area at Greenbrier Academy is that the teachers go beyond what is asked of them. Yes, they care about how well students do in school, but they take it a step further; they take a genuine interest in our lives and well-being. They took it upon themselves to act as our teachers, friends, mentors, and confidantes.
The most important part of my experience at Greenbrier Academy was the interaction I had with the other students. Being one of the first few students, I had the chance to see everyone when they first arrived and be a part of their growth experience. Seeing that change is inspiring. At Greenbrier Academy, I was given the opportunity to mentor, watch, and help them go through the same things I was going through, and it was very empowering. I was given the chance to help change lives. Through those experiences, I learned how to be less judgmental, a better listener, and a good friend; it gave me a sense of self-worth. Like the staff, the girls constantly held me accountable for my actions and helped me develop the skills I lacked. For the first time, people my age weren’t too intimidated to tell me that what I was doing was not acceptable. Regardless of whether we attended Greenbrier Academy at the same time, there is a natural bond between all the Greenbrier Academy girls because we all share in a relational experience. I built lifelong friendships with positive people who still help me succeed and keep me in line even though we’re not at school anymore.
When I left Greenbrier Academy, I wasn’t a saint. I most certainly struggled with falling back into old personality habits and slightly stumbled to readjust to life back home. The difference was this time I was prepared. Greenbrier Academy taught me how to judge right from wrong, grow in virtue, acknowledge self-worth, be an effective leader and teacher, voice my opinion without being overly bold, respect myself, think before acting, know when to let others take the lead, develop confidence, and practice giving and receiving trust. Greenbrier Academy gave me the tools necessary to live. If Greenbrier Academy was never a part of my story, I would not be learning, growing, or becoming the person I am evolving into today.
Maddie, Greenbrier Academy Alumni Student
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