This week’s blog post was contributed by Kristi Knight, a senior at Anderson University and Compass Rose Academy’s first summer intern.

As an Anderson University senior majoring in family science and youth leadership-development, I was on the hunt to find an internship where I could learn and experience a great deal about the social service world. After two other internships, one in a youth ministry and one in a secular adolescent residential treatment center, I found myself yearning to learn how to make two of my greatest passions function together. How do residential care and ministry intertwine? Can they operate together in a successful way?

Within this past month, I have spent more than 170 hours with the students and staff at Compass Rose Academy. What I yearned for, a residential treatment center that operates as a ministry, was exactly what I found. Compass Rose Academy is full of welcoming, authentic and caring leadership and staff who are passionate about helping young girls reach their God-given potential.

As someone desiring to work with teens in a supplementary form alongside parents, it’s been interesting as I’ve compared my different professional experiences. I interned with a youth ministry for a few years, and for some students who are facing struggles, being with the youth group for a few hours a week is enough to keep them grounded and focused. For others, much more intensive care is needed. The beauty of residential care is that the staff are able to assist parents by doing what mom or dad just don’t always have time to do: be present and available 24/7. I have been truly impressed by the way Compass Rose works hard to engage parents constantly by providing updates about their child and contacting them in times of decision-making. It really is a team effort with parents and the CRA leadership. They are devoted to working with each student and her parent to achieve the goals they’ve all set together throughout treatment.

Throughout my internship, I watched the Compass Rose leadership and staff invest in these young girls through individual, group and family counseling based on a holistic growth model developed by John Townsend. I watched the staff have casual yet deeply meaningful talks about real life and the difficulties these girls face without passing judgment. I watched them play basketball, volleyball, tennis and board games; put on cottage olympics; and participate in many crafting nights. I watched them joke, sing and laugh with the girls often. I also watched the Compass Rose team provide structure and consistency for the girls by creating and holding to boundaries and rules. I watched them instill a sense of responsibility and ownership within the girls by providing opportunities to learn independent living skills like doing their own laundry, cooking meals and cleaning the cottage. I watched the staff invest in the spiritual lives of the girls by sitting with them and searching for Bible verses that those young ladies can hold onto as truth about who they are and whose they are. The staff are devoted to spending intentional time with the girls and investing in relationships that continue to spur growth.

This intentionality in relationships shows itself in how comfortable the girls feel in this place and with the staff. In a conversation with one of the students at Compass Rose, she explained how she had run away from her previous placements often. She’s been at our program for a few months now and has yet to run away. I asked why our placement was different. She said, “I could tell they didn’t really care about me there. At least here, I know you guys care.” While recognizing it may not be a child’s first choice to be at a residential placement away from home, it warmed my heart in the most sincere way to know that at the very least, this student knows that she is genuinely cared about by our Compass Rose staff. That is truly precious.

I observed and participated in a lot during my time as a Compass Rose Academy intern. I left my internship feeling like it wasn’t enough, like I didn’t want to be done journeying with girls or the staff. There is something special about Compass Rose Academy. It may not be the right place for every girl, every mom or dad or every family, but if it is the right place for your situation, everyone involved will experience growth and life change through what they teach often at CRA: love and grace over time, by God’s direction.