One of the definitions of spartan is a person of great courage and self-discipline. These are not the words I would have used to describe Dalton Geouge on the day we met. We both remembered the day well. It was the day after Dalton’s 15th birthday. He arrived with a social worker, wide-eyed and wondering where he was and how long he would be here. He thought it would be less than a year and he would just go back home.
The intake process is long and detailed and as I watched Dalton’s face when he answered my questions, I was concerned about how this move was affecting him. It’s the story of many teens who enter foster care.
A tough adjustment.
Entering foster care at such a late age is scary and confusing for a young man. Dalton recalls, “I was a bull. I was mad and didn’t want to do anything I was asked to do.” It’s easy to imagine his feelings. Like all children at Crossnore, Dalton was offered therapy services and it was in those sessions that he began to deal with his hurt, confusion, and anger.
Dalton credits his then therapist and case manager for helping him heal to the point he could begin to make good choices for his own life. “Bethany and Crystal held me accountable to do the right things,” said Dalton. “They made me see that I could change my life. Now I tell new kids at Crossnore to take advantage of all that’s available to them. Once you settle in, it’s easy to enjoy living here.”
Turning the corner.
Watching from afar, it was apparent when Dalton began to turn the corner. He settled down in his cottage, worked hard to improve his grades, earned additional privileges and maintained the responsibilities that went with those privileges, and started working on campus after school and during the summers. Dalton worked in the coffee shop and with the maintenance team, learning skills he will take with him when he leaves Crossnore.
The next phase.
Speaking of which, the time for Dalton to leave Crossnore is just around the corner. From the scared and angry teenager I met on that cold wintry day four years ago, Dalton is now a confident young adult with a plan for the future.
He graduated from Marjorie Williams Academy on June 1, 2019. Dalton says his favorite classes during spring semester were English IV and Senior Projects. For his senior project, Dalton wrote on becoming a personal trainer and how to start a personal training business.
Dalton leaves in November to join the United States Marine Corps. He’d like to work on tanks, not as a mechanic, but as part of the crew that operates the tank. He has signed a contract for four years of active duty and then will decide if he wants to stay in.
While at Crossnore, Dalton has had many experiences that made an impression on him. One of his favorites was a Spartan Race that he ran last summer with Heidi Fisher, Crossnore Fine Arts Gallery and Student Work Program manager. The Spartan Race is a five-mile obstacle run that tests your physical limits of endurance. Dalton trained for 18 months to get ready, although he admits to slacking off in the last three months.
The race was held on a 90 degree day in August and included off-road running, water obstacles, and lots of mud. “I thought it was a challenge I could do,” said Dalton. “Heidi and I had become close through the Student Work Program. When I heard that she was going to do the race, I thought I’d join her.” Dalton says he ran the first half of the race and walked the last half. And I reminded him that in the style of a true Spartan, he had finished the race.
Another source of encouragement for Dalton has been his relationship with his visiting resource, Kim Barnhardt. Kim has a great heart for young adults and has spent the last couple of years getting to know Dalton and spending time with him. In fact, Kim was at the Spartan Race with Dalton and Heidi and provided the funds for Dalton to enter the race.
Dalton has enjoyed the time they’ve spent together and told me that he’s met some of Kim’s family. He has fond memories of attending a Carolina Panthers’ game and enjoyed the box seating. When I asked about Kim, Dalton said, “To me, my visiting resource is someone to be there for me. Kim is an advisor and a role model. I’ll definitely stay in touch with her.”
Kim’s view is one of great admiration for Dalton and the way he has grown. She told me, “I’m so proud of all that Dalton has accomplished and the plan he has for his life. You should see the way the younger kids at Crossnore look up to Dalton. He is setting a good example for them.”
Kim and I also discussed the visiting resource program and its importance in the life of a child or teenager. Visiting resources are matched with a Crossnore kid who may not have visitation with their family. Kim says, “Being Dalton’s visiting resource has probably done far more for me than it has for him, and I hope he’ll be a part of my life for years to come.”
Prepared for the future.
As Dalton and I talked about all that he’s been through, he shared, “You can’t take a kid from his home and expect him to be happy about it. But here at Crossnore, I’ve learned to be independent and to make my own decisions. I have a car and I pay for my insurance and phone bill. I know how to hold down a job and I can cook my own meals.” Completing the Spartan Race feels like a metaphor for Dalton’s life race. He has trained for the last four years to step out into adulthood. He has learned lessons, made memories, built relationships, and acquired skills that will help him meet his next goals.
These steps have taken great courage and self-discipline and are a great foundation for Dalton to build on as he becomes a Marine. Such a display of courage and self-discipline qualifies Dalton as a true Spartan in the race of life and I can’t wait to see the places he will go.