Coming into Care
The Echevarria family grows strong women, just ask Annette Echevarria and her sister, Giselle Echevarria Helton. A shared family history brought Annette and Giselle to Crossnore when they were teenagers. Coming into foster care as a teen is difficult and it was hard for the girls to leave their mother and younger sister at home, but they were old enough to understand the need for safety.
Living at Crossnore was a stretch for both Giselle and Annette. Both girls commented on how they had been raised in an extremely conservative and limiting background. They weren’t used to being around people who were different than they were or who had different life experiences. But this turned out to be a positive for them, said Giselle, “Living at Crossnore helped me to become more open-minded. It taught me to find the good in other people and to enjoy the differences we all have.” Annette agreed, “I wasn’t used to having my own ideas and opinions, but at Crossnore, I had the opportunity to express myself more.”
After the initial adjustment period, Giselle and Annette readily settled into cottage life. They enjoyed getting to know their cottage parents and the girls they lived with. Giselle commented, “Crossnore was a very wholesome environment for us to be in. I felt very cared for by my cottage parents and I can say that definitely helped me become a more successful adult.” Annette enjoyed building a relationship with staff and her Visiting Resource and she remains in contact with some of them to this day. “My cottage parents and visiting resource made a huge difference for me as their support made living there easier,” she said.
Both girls had been homeschooled and had fallen behind their same age peers. Attending Williams Academy allowed them to catch up in their education. “It’s also where I learned to think independently,” said Giselle. And Annette recalled how her education at Williams Academy prepared her to return home. She said, “When I came to the Academy, there were areas where I was lacking. When I went home two years later and went to public school, I was worried that I would still be behind. But instead I found out I was ahead of my same age and grade peers.”
Learning (and Loving) to Weave
Annette and Giselle also enjoyed working in the Student Work Program at Crossnore Weavers. Working in the weaving room gave both girls the opportunity to meet people in the community, to have some independence and responsibility, and to make a little money. Annette was a weaver and learned to weave placemats, rugs, and table runners. She said, “Working in the weaving room was fun because of the women who work there. Plus I got paid to make stuff!” Giselle loves to sew, and she worked in the finishing room. She also said it was wonderful to get paid to do a hobby you loved. The weavers took the sisters under their wing and Giselle remembers, “I loved Lisa Banner, Heidi Fisher, and Judy Ollis. Working with Judy in the finishing room taught me so much and I still sew to this day.”
Where They Are Now
Today Giselle and Annette are all grown up. Giselle graduated from Polk County High School in 2015 and began nursing school at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee. After meeting and marrying her husband, Nick, it wasn’t long before baby Isabel was on the way. So Giselle is busy as a stay-at-home mom and is taking a break from school. She would like to have more children and then finish her degree. Her main goal is to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. “My time at Crossnore helped me learn to be agreeable, to get along with other people, and to work in groups. They truly helped me find my potential and my worth,” said Giselle.
Annette graduated from Fletcher Academy in 2016 and she also attends Southern Adventist University. She is studying bio-chemistry and is on the pre-med track. Annette likes science and understanding what makes the body work, but she also enjoys the interaction with and care of people. Annette’s goal is to go to PA or medical school and says that her college scholarships from Crossnore have been a huge blessing.
“My academic scholarships weren’t enough to cover the entire cost, so Crossnore made up the difference,” said Annette. “If I didn’t have that scholarship, I would have to work and take longer to graduate. Or I would end up in debt. And some of the money enabled me to take a class where we went to India for two weeks to set up medical clinics. I’d never have been able to do that without Crossnore.”
We couldn’t be prouder of the hard work Giselle and Annette put in during their time at Crossnore. They availed themselves of all that Crossnore had to offer and have used that as a foundation for the rest of their lives. They are strong women indeed.