For a teenager that is used to less structure, Lashawna Couch says life at Eagle Ranch hasn’t been as bad as she expected.
“I’ve had some ups and downs, but I’ve learned a lot,” said Lashawna, a 15-year-old Gainesville resident. “Overall, it’s been pretty good.”
Getting to the good parts meant adjusting to a different operating system.
“There are a whole lot more rules here than there were at my house,” Lashawna said. “And we’re on such a strict schedule. That’s really different from my house because we’re just laid back and do whatever when we get to it. But (it’s been) helpful to have the rules.”
After spending 10 months at the ranch so far, Lashawna says she learned several other lessons that she can apply to her everyday life at home.
“I think I’ll use the listen to other people (lesson), where I listen to what they have to say and hear them out (to resolve conflict),” she said. “Before, I didn’t really want to listen to the other person if I thought that I was right and they were wrong. But now I’ve learned to listen, and maybe I’m not always right.”
That lesson has also helped Lashawna get along better with her little sister.
“Me and my sister would always fight and not want to be around each other,” she said. “Now we can actually have a decent conversation with each other.”
While at the ranch, Lashawna has been attending Eagle Ranch School, which is for grades six through nine, but in the fall she will be enrolling at Flowery Branch High School. Although she sometimes gave into disruptive, classroom behaviors before moving to the ranch, now Lashawna says she is better equipped to do the right thing.
“Here, it’s easier for me to learn the subject and get my work done and get it done right,” she said. “I can have more one-on-one time with the teacher and that really helps.
“But I’ve learned how to not pay attention to what is going on around me and to focus on my work, so I think I’ll do good there, too.”
Lashawna hasn’t been the only one learning life lessons at the ranch. Her family has benefited from the group counseling sessions, Lashawna said.
“In my house there’s me, my brother, my sister and my mom. Ten months ago, we couldn’t be around each other and have a conversation without fussing at each other. We just couldn’t get along for very long at all,” Lashawna said.
“But coming here has taught us how to get along with each other and how to hear each other out,” she said. “I think that if we hadn’t come here, we would still been in the same position — we wouldn’t be able to be around each other. I really do believe that the ranch has helped our family and taught our family a lot — and that’s why our family is close again.”