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Growing up at Crossnore


“I came [to campus] with a paper bag that had all my belongings in it,” recalls Crossnore alumna Mitzi Petrey Ensor. The year was 1973 and then seven-year-old Mitzi, had come to Crossnore, along with her two sisters, by way of West Virginia. Upon arrival Mitzi was introduced to her cottage parent, Bula Thomas, and taken to the cottage attic and campus store to be fitted for several outfits.  

“I had never had as much as I got my first few days at Crossnore,” Mitzi saysI thought to myself, ‘What a friendly, safe, and beautiful place,’ even though I was a scared seven-year-old. 

Blessings in the unknown. 

The blessings didn’t stop there. Crossnore provided the Petrey sisters with safety, consistency, and love. Crossnore gave Mitzi and her sisters a clean, warm place to live and three hot meals every day. Mitzi credits Ms. Thomas with teaching her how to take care of herself and take pride in her room. 

Once she turned 13, Mitzi moved to the teen cottage overseen by John and Ramona Sturgills. Although she was sad to leave Ms. Thomas, the cottage parent she had been with since she first came to Crossnore, she was excited to begin living with girls her age who were experiencing the same teenage growing pains as she wasEnsor lauds the Sturgillses for teaching her how to be a lady. “I had dorm parents that pulled the best out of me daily,” she says.  

An active, happy childhood.

Williams Academy was not built until 1999 so Mitzi attended the local public schools where she enjoyed dancing, cheerleading, and playing sports. While on the Crossnore campus, Mitzi enjoyed participating in many crafts, from ceramics and candle making to weaving and photography.  

Mitzi admits she was scared to turn 18 and age out of Crossnore but she found that her dorm parents had equipped her well for life outside of the Crossnore community. “Crossnore prepared me to be a Godly, independent, strong, and caring person, ready to take on the ups and downs of life,” she says.  

Crossnore prepared me to be a Godly, independent, strong, and caring person, ready to take on the ups and downs of life.”

Life today and hope for tomorrow.

Mitzi keeps in touch with her cottage parents as well as many of her cottage sisters and brothers, and she says they have a bond that goes beyond what most blood relatives have.  

Today she lives with her husband about 50 minutes from Crossnore in Elizabethton, Tennessee. She has four grown children and one grandson. Mitzi works with the special needs class at Hunter Elementary. She feels that her life is coming full circle from her time at Crossnore and hopes to continue her work helping her students.  

Five years from now I hope to still be at Hunter Elementary making a difference in the kids I work with,” she says. And I would like to have 10 more grandchildren!” 

Mitzi credits Crossnore with saving her life and shielding her from some of the cruelties of the world outside of campus. “Crossnore sent me a life preserver when I was seven,” Ensor says. “To this day Crossnore is still saving children and raising them to be strong, smart, and productive members of society.”