Life After CORRAL

Ciara riding Horse while Leanne walks beside her

Each of our girls has their own unique story. The challenges they face as they struggle to heal and grow can push them to their limits. Let’s face it — few of us are born with a love of facing our shadows in pursuit of transformational change. CORRAL endeavors to support our girls, but if we didn’t also push them, that growth would never happen. At times they hit a wall, throw up their arms and walk away. But, this is the story of a girl who after repeatedly shutting down and giving up, slowly opened up and landed in a place she never thought was for her.

Ciara came to CORRAL in ninth grade with a 27, one of the highest risk scores within our internal risk assessment tool. A victim of childhood abuse, Ciara faced unprocessed trauma manifested in every aspect of her life. She suffered from depression, anxiety, self-harm, neglect, and academic failure. Coming from a broken home, she reported feeling abandoned and as a result, struggled to connect with others. Unable to safely process her frustration and anger, she would often erupt during challenges. Other times, she would fall into a deep 3–5 hour nap after school with little desire to work on homework, especially math where she was failing.

Initially, paired with rescue horse Ruffie, Ciara was challenged with a goal to practice attachment and connection to Ruffie, a small red-brown Paso Fino. Ruffie flat out refuses to work with any girls who exhibit anger or fear. After coaching Ciara how to redirect her energy, she learned to plant her feet on the ground, strike a power pose and breathe in a manner that provoked a desired response from Ruffie. The real magic happened when she learned that she could apply these skills outside of CORRAL. For most of her youth, Ciara struggled with differentiating between assertive and aggressive behavior. She assumed that assertion in place of aggression was a sign of weakness. After working with Ruffie, she learned how to set assertive boundaries rather than resorting to aggression when dealing with relationship issues.

When transformation occurs, it affects more than one aspect of our life. When Ciara came to CORRAL, she had a 2.0 GPA but after spending 3.5 years in the program, she flipped her grades around and was on track to graduate high school. Now, a full-time freshman in Winston Salem State’s nursing program, Ciara recently earned an A+ on a class paper. Not only did her paper receive the highest grade possible, but it was also selected as an example of outstanding writing. In reflection of her time at CORRAL, Ciara commented, “I never knew CORRAL was going to have such a big impact on my life. It was weird to have so many people care about me.”

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CORRAL is a faith-motivated nonprofit that equips adolescent girls in high-risk situations through a long-term, holistic program of equine therapy and education.

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