Soaring Wings ‘will always be home’

by Sonja J. Keith

High school graduation was bittersweet for Brittney Fader and Emma Allen. Excited to start the next chapter in their lives, both are sad to be leaving their home at Soaring Wings Christian Ranch.

Brittney and Emma were among the 203 in this year’s graduating class at Greenbrier High School. They represent the first two at Soaring Wings to graduate from high school.

“You’re stepping into a new world, and you get to be your own person and make your own decisions. I’m ready,” said Emma. “It’s kind of scary if I think about it, but I’m very excited.”

“I like school, I like my friends and I like my home,” said Brittney. “I want to go, but I’m really sad to leave.”

Emma has lived at the ranch – located in the Holland community – for a year and a half. Brittney has called it home for almost five. They describe the ranch as Christ-centered and with a positive, family environment and a strong support system. They live in the Ridout Home, which has nine girls ranging in age from 11-18.

Both will miss their teachers and friends at Greenbrier. Emma, who enjoys history and the one-on-one interaction with teachers, plans to pursue a pharmacy degree at Harding University.

Brittney has particularly enjoyed her agriculture classes at Greenbrier and being a member of Future Farmers of America. She plans to major in industrial controls at Arkansas Tech University. Her ultimate goal is to become an agriculture teacher, following in the footsteps of her teacher and mentor Patrick Breeding, who retired this year.

Emma and Brittney are appreciative of the support they have received from the staff as well as the Soaring Wings Ranch Hands, a group of volunteers who plan special activities for those at the ranch. Emma said the group had a special welcome basket waiting for her when she moved to the ranch. In it was a personal letter from one of the members who said she was praying for Emma.

“They didn’t know me and yet they were praying for me and providing a home for me,” Emma said. “You are loved the minute you get on the ranch. I didn’t think I’d get as attached or gain a family like I did, or get as much love as I did.”

Both pointed out that there are misconceptions about the ranch, including the idea that it is for bad kids. “It’s to give kids who didn’t have a chance to have a life,” Emma said. “It’s our home. It’s like every other home.”

“[My grades] have drastically changed,” Brittney said, adding being in an environment where schoolwork was emphasized was new to her.

Emma added, “Here they care about your grades and the person you are going to become.”

Both girls are particularly close to their house parents, Becky and Donny Lockett, who are “Mom” and “Dad” to them. “Mom and Dad are proud of me and want me to succeed,” Brittany said. “I know they are going to be there to support me. Here it’s amazing.”

“Mom and Dad show you how real parents are suppose to treat their children,” Emma added.

Brittney said college would not have been an option for her had she not lived at the ranch. “I was going to college, but it would have been a struggle, and we wouldn’t have the support,” Emma said.

Both girls are looking forward to their return visits and being involved in the ranch. “I don’t think people realize the impact Soaring Wings has on the kids that come here,” Emma said. “It changes your life, whether you are here a day or a year.”

“This is your home,” Brittney said. “They are your family and they push you like a real family will do.”

While they are sad to leave, Emma and Brittney know that they are always a part of the ranch, and Soaring Wings will forever be a part of them. They know that leaving is the next step in their lives, which makes room for two more girls to join the ranch.

“The ranch is still going to be here,” Emma said. “This will always be my home.”