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Archives for January 2018

Remembering the life of Jan Gillespie

In the fall of 1941, Janice (Jan) Krull met John Gillespie in a grade school classroom. Little did they know, the love they would share and their subsequent 59-year marriage would go on to change the lives of hundreds of young men in their community. Today, January 25, 2018, Rawhide Boys Ranch celebrates the life and legacy of Jan Gillespie.

In the mid-sixties, a young boy approached Jan and John during a church service and shared the struggles he faced in his home life. He asked to spend the afternoon with the couple, and they happily obliged.

The afternoon shared with the young boy from church turned into so much more. John and Jan felt a calling that would lead them to open their home to more at-risk youth from the community.

Jan Gillespie with horses at Rawhide

Along with the support of Bart and Cherry Starr, John and Jan founded Rawhide Boys Ranch. She was instrumental in bringing the Starrs on board with Rawhide after insisting her husband, John, make a cold call to the Starrs, encouraging them to lend their influence.

Jan helped turn Rawhide into a top-rated charity and transform the organization from one boy’s home into its current state that includes seven boy’s homes, an accredited private high school, a mental health outpatient clinic, and numerous job training facilities.

A long-lasting legacy

Jan, along with her husband, served as a houseparent for over 27 years at Rawhide providing care, direction, and unconditional love to at-risk youth.

“They’re like your children and even though they weren’t born into your family, you treat them like your children and you love them unconditionally.”

Jan’s love of horses and horseback riding led her to pair young men residing at Rawhide with a horse on the ranch. Jan knew when responsible for the care of a horse, at-risk youth can better learn about trust, communication, confidence, and social skills. Today, Rawhide incorporates an Equine Program that helps at-risk youth work on issues like anger management, relationship building, boundaries, alcohol and substance abuse, and more.

Her legacy reaches far beyond the horse barn. Jan’s role as Housemother for over 350 young men helped instill values that many of those young men have passed on to their own families. She was instrumental in the development of each and every boy that entered her home as a houseparent at Rawhide. Houseparents at Rawhide Boys Ranch continue to strive to provide a family structure for at-risk boys from our community.

Jan remained active and close to the community at Rawhide for years after retirement, attending fish fry’s and keeping in contact with youth and alumni from the Ranch.

On January 25, 2017, Jan Gillespie passed away in her home with her husband and best friend John by her side. On the anniversary of her death, we look back and give thanks for her called life of service that touched the lives of so many and rejoice in her everlasting life in Christ.

Starr Academy Graduation at Rawhide Boys Ranch

The graduation ceremony at Rawhide‘s Starr Academy illustrates what is possible after months of study, hard work, and personal growth. Houseparents, youth care workers, job trainers, and school teachers all have an impact on the development of a student during their time at Rawhide Boys Ranch. A Starr Academy graduation ceremony is the perfect illustration of how every donation can make an impact in the life of a Starr Academy student.

Graduation from Starr Academy means that the “real world” is right around the corner. Most graduates don’t have the resources to drift through four or five years of college without a plan, hoping to find a passion. They need make it for themselves as soon as they step off the Ranch.

The Starr Academy graduation ceremony at Rawhide is little different from graduation at a traditional high school but still holds the same significance to the students, as well as friends and family. Those who graduate from Starr Academy are completing a difficult journey; one that started as soon as they got to Rawhide.

During the ceremony, family, friends, instructors, and employees at Rawhide are all on-hand to hear the stories and words of wisdom from staff and students.

Starr Academy graduation ceremony order of service

Introductory Remarks – An instructor or Starr Academy Principal opens the ceremony, introducing the graduate and previewing the ceremony ahead.

Case Manager Remarks – The graduate’s Case Manager provides an overall view of where the student was when he came to Rawhide, and where he’s at today; typically a huge transformation.

House Address – A housemother or father shows a more intimate view of how each graduate has dealt with the adversity they’ve experienced and how they overcame it.

Special Remarks – Other classroom instructors or work instructors offer a glimpse of the day in, day out grind on the Ranch.

Snap-On Presentation – The graduate is presented with a keepsake gift from Snap-On Tools.

Board of Directors Presentation – President and CEO, Alan Loux, speaks on behalf of the Rawhide Board of Directors, offering words of encouragement for the future, letting the graduate know that Rawhide will always stand behind them if things get tough.

Presentation of Diploma

Affirmation by Audience – This is a special time when staff, friends, family, and other Rawhide students can speak about the graduate.


Graduation ceremony at rawhide

Graduation means more at Starr Academy

Youth care workers, houseparents, school instructors, and house members gather in the auditorium at Starr Academy. The Principal of Starr Academy, housemother, housefather, and assigned youth workers speak on behalf of the graduate. They generally do not speak of test scores or homework assignments, but on the character, as well as emotional and spiritual changes that have taken place at Rawhide – and things can get emotional. A recent graduate thanked 22 members of the Rawhide staff by name. From Academic Instructors to Work Experience Instructors, he recognized the potential that they saw in him; the same potential the staff sees in every student at Rawhide.

The housemothers and housefathers see life-altering changes happen during the time the guys spend at Rawhide, setting the course for a positive life trajectory.

Graduates speak of the challenges of leaving their friends and family, adjusting to life on the Ranch, changes in expectations, and the moment they realized they needed to make a change to lead a successful life. Rawhide’s family-centered care, boy’s homes with a mother and father, and traditional routine are designed to help guys adjust and open up. The love and care provided by everyone from the houseparents to staff at Starr Academy help the guys make necessary changes and persevere through tough times.

Learn more about Starr Academy

In addition to Rawhide staff, the graduate’s house brothers share personal stories about growth and development that have taken place during their time as students. Many of the guys tell stories about good times and funny moments. Others speak about shared struggle or a time when the graduate helped them through a difficult period.
Graduation speaker at Rawhide
The graduation ceremony serves as a reminder to the Rawhide guys in the audience: with strong faith, hard work, and determination, it is possible to permanently turn around your situation to lead responsible and successful lives.

Graduation is also a time to give thanks. The immense gratitude expressed by the grads is a telling sign of change that has taken place in their attitude and spirit.
The ceremony is a confirmation of the incredible work that guys have put in during their time on the Ranch and signifies the work and effort yet to come. Their time at Rawhide will be reflected on for the rest of their lives, and the lessons they’ve learned can be ingrained so they can continue to draw from after they leave the Ranch.

If a student wants to graduate from Starr Academy, they need to go above and beyond and commit to more intense study than other kids their age. One of the most recent Starr Academy grads came to Rawhide with only three high school credits. To obtain a diploma after less than two years of study requires incredible effort and dedication. In order graduate, many of the guys do considerable work outside of the classroom to rack up credits. A lot of hard work in a short amount of time is required to get a new student caught up to where they’re supposed to be since many of the students have fallen behind before they enroll at Starr Academy. Not only do they have to deal with rigors of class and homework, but they have to adjust to new surroundings, far away from family and friends.

Fortunately, getting a high school diploma is not out of reach at Rawhide. The intense courses and job training the guys receive at Rawhide is a blessing. The instructors, trainers, and staff at Rawhide help the guys realize their potential, and to use the mental and psychical tools they’ve honed here for self-improvement the rest of their life.

More success stories

Success stories aren’t only limited to graduation ceremonies. After leaving Rawhide, alumni use the skills they’ve obtained to help finish their diploma back home and in some cases go on to seek college or university education. Even a high school diploma might have seemed like a goal out of reach for a student like Dylan.

“Nothing else compares to Rawhide in its beauty, the love that you find with staff, and the care that’s here. Other places are darker, colder, and the staff was just there to collect a paycheck and drink coffee. At Rawhide, there’s more genuine concern that the staff has for the students. They want to see you succeed and they want to see you graduate, do good, and further your life in a more positive direction.”

Teens and Caffeine

For many adults, caffeiene usage is a necessity. Effectively used, caffeine can provide a much-needed boost to help improve memory performance, alertness, and aerobic conditions – even for teens. But overreliance can quickly morph into dependence for adults and teenagers. Overconsumption of caffeine by teenagers has a magnified effect on their body and brain, causing headaches, shakiness, rapid heartbeat, dehydration, upset stomach, sleep deprivation, and in some cases, much worse.

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Teens and Caffeine Infographic

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For teens who take medications like Adderall, or those who don’t consume sugar on a regular basis, caffeine can be particularly dangerous. One of the most publicized caffeine-related deaths in recent years involved a 16-year old male teenager from South Carolina. According to the county coroner, the teen suffered a caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia, stemming from an abnormal heart rhythm.

In the course of just over three hours, this healthy 16-year old consumed a cafe latte, a large diet Mountain Dew, and an energy drink. He collapsed at school in a classroom at Spring Hill High School on April 26, 2017, and died just a few hours later.

RELATED: Cyberbullying and teen suicide. When online harassment kills.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children and adolescents avoid energy drinks altogether, but there isn’t a set standard for children as far as caffeine consumption is concerned. Adults have no issues consuming amounts of upwards to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, which translates to around four cups of coffee or thirteen cans of cola! However, the equivalent of just a few cups of coffee or cans of soda can interrupt normal behavior and the state of mind of teenagers.

To actually reach a “lethal” dose of caffeine, you would have to choke down somewhere from 50 to 100 cups of coffee. But the most sugar and caffeine isn’t found in a can of Coke or café latte, it’s found in energy drinks. The real and more present danger to teens is how caffeine can react with other ingredients found in an energy drink and how it can react inside of their system.

Marketing caffeine to teens

Energy drinks can pose problems for teenagers. The energy drink market is projected to be worth over $60 billion by 2021. Tobacco-like regulations are also being widely considered to stop the marketing of energy drinks to children and teenagers. Bear in mind that this industry didn’t even exist 20 years ago. The incentive to market to a young demographic is enormous.

From 2005 to 2011, energy drink-related emergency-room visits rose from 1,494 to 20,783. Energy drinks like Monster Energy, Red Bull, Rockstar, or NOS contain much more caffeine than an average cup of coffee. Nearly all energy drinks contain other additives like guarana and taurine, which are uncommon in other types of drinks or foods and tend to intensify the already sizable portions of caffeine in energy drinks.

Problems arise quickly when energy drinks are mixed with the wrong kinds of medication or alcohol. A clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents. In fact, all caffeine-containing beverages should be avoided. While there’s debate about whether or not the government should step in and reduce the amount of caffeine allowed in energy drinks, we can take steps to educate teens about the risks of abuse.

Side effects of too much caffeine in kids and teens

Small amounts of caffeine won’t harm teens. Consistent use and over-consumption can set off noticeable side effects that should serve as a red flag for parents.

Side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Shakiness
  • Sleep disorders
  • Irritability
  • Upset stomach
  • Rapid heart rate
  • A headache
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dehydration


Natural sugars found in fruit, along with the appropriate amounts of caffeine can sharpen mental focus. But too much of the drug in the hands of an adolescent can quickly get out of hand.

Teenage caffeine consumption

Teens have direct access to drinks packed with caffeine and it’s difficult for parents and schools to completely regulate caffeine. Consuming regular amounts of soda can have other negative effects like weight gain among teens. When teens consume soda or sports water instead of juice or milk, they miss out on dozens of essential vitamins and minerals during a time in their lives when they need nutrients to grow and develop. Schools and workplaces have been proactive and have taken action by removing soda vending machines.

Where to go from here

While it’s unlikely that energy drink sales will slow down anytime soon, we can take time to educate our teens about the real and present dangers from the regular consumption and overconsumption of energy drinks. Accurate warning labels and limits to caffeine could be put into place by local and federal governments. However, the quickest way to make an impact on youth is to explain the dangers of irresponsible consumption. Whether your teen is a gamer or an athlete, there’s no reason for children and teens under 17 to consume energy drinks.

There are alternatives to caffeine-packed drinks, however. Becoming more productive at school or at work could boil down to taking a ten-minute break to get exercise. Substituting fruits that naturally contain sugar can serve as effective alternatives to soda or coffee drinks. The naturally occurring sugar and vitamins in apples, for example, can help provide a pick-me-up. Staying hydrated can boost your metabolism, flush out toxins, and help you eat less. Engage with your teens and their teachers about ways they can stay energized throughout the day to avoid the temptation to tap into highly caffeinated beverages.