“Most of them were coming from an unstable home environment; they were running with the wrong crowd; they were not succeeding in school; and many times, their family is living below the poverty level,” Duran said. “On the streets in Houston, they’re surviving—but here at Boys and Girls Country, they’re thriving.”
The faith-based nonprofit was founded in 1971 and has since served more than 1,600 children. Duran said many of those once at-risk children go on to become leaders among their peers who work in the corporate world or in the oil and gas industry. Others go on to become teachers or entrepreneurs. Some even return to work for Boys and Girls Country, he said.
The property has 11 cottages designed for eight students each and “teaching parents,” married couples and single adults who live on-site full-time and try to make life as normal as possible for the children. Teaching parents prepare meals; attend the children’s sporting events; take them to medical appointments; help with homework; and teach them life skills such as cooking, driving and cleaning laundry, Duran said.
Malcolm Guerra serves as the organization’s director of the college and career program as well as the Boys Community director, but he started out as a teaching parent and alongside his wife helped raise 27 girls over a 10-year period. He recalls reading Bible stories to the younger children every night before bedtime. One night, the oldest student in the house, a 17-year-old, told him she had never had anyone read her a bedtime story as a child.
“So at 17, I read her her first bedtime story. It’s those little moments that I think, ‘God, what a privilege I have to be able to be in this role, to be here for these kids,’” Guerra said. “I think most of our teaching parents feel the same way. They have those little breakthroughs with the kids, and I like to tell people there are little miracles that happen here every day.”
Those breakthroughs may include seeing a student make their first good grade in school, learn to play an instrument, overcome fears or simply feel safe.
Students living at Boys and Girls Country attend Waller ISD, but because many are behind their peers academically when they arrive, Duran said they also have a full-time director of education who helps close that gap. A dedicated director of campus ministry and counseling staff are also available to meet spiritual and emotional needs.
Boys and Girls Country also has a college and career program that continues to support students once they graduate high school and helps them become self-sustaining adults.
“If our kids stay here, we help them to find scholarships; we help them to get their financial aid set up, and then if they come up short, we have donors who help make sure they graduate from college debt free,” Guerra said.
Duran said he hopes to build a new college and career campus to provide housing and other resources to support those students. Officials are also in the process of rebuilding all cottages on the property, which provide each child with their own bedroom, bathroom and closet, Guerra said. Four aging structures have already been replaced, and the fifth rebuild is slated for next year.
Because Boys and Girls Country is privately funded, leadership relies on the generosity of local businesses, churches and individuals to operate and support children whose families are in crisis. Community members can also volunteer their time to work with the students and contribute to campus projects.
“We want the community to know that we are a resource for them, so if there is a family that’s struggling ... because there are some stressors in their home life, we’re here to help them,” Duran said.
Boys and Girls Country, 18806 Roberts Road, Hockley, 281-351-4976. www.boysandgirlscountry.org