The MCH Boys Ranch Provides a Foundation for Youth to Thrive
In 1971, MCH benefactor J.T. Stevens of Arlington provided funds for the purchase of land about 10 miles east of Waco that would be developed into the MCH Boys Ranch.
According to MCH archives, the Boys Ranch was established to provide structured living and space that would accommodate a work environment to help youth develop self-discipline and responsibility.
The program first utilized work crews, academic and vocational instruction, recreation, community service, and individual counseling to help youth achieve personal growth.
Following construction, the first group of youth was brought into the Edwards Ranch House in August 1973, the first of the homes to be built. At that time, youth learned how to feed and care for livestock, build fences, paint facilities, bale hay, and cut and clear timber.
Today, the MCH Boys Ranch has the capacity to serve up to 40 youth at the 500-acre facility. The ranch includes homes for youth, administrative offices, a recreation and activities center, a variety of livestock pens and barns, an equine arena, and a dining hall.
Laura Bonner, program administrator, believes the Boys Ranch is a great option for many youth.
“This is a unique program,” she said. “This location provides young men entering MCH a choice in their environment.”
“Youth coming from a rural or ranch background may desire familiarity when coming to MCH,” she explained. “Others may be searching for a new space to learn and grow. Overall, the ranch is a special place for youth to build a solid foundation for life while surrounded by outdoor recreation and education opportunities.”
Tim Price, director of outdoor education at the Boys Ranch, believes the ranch environment instills responsibility while providing room for creativity and fun.
“We have a great amount of resources at the Boys Ranch that we maximize,” said Price. “We are doing everything in our power to give youth every opportunity possible to be successful and grow.”
Resources include a 50-foot Alpine Tower challenge course, a recreation and activities center, lakes for fishing and kayaking, a horsemanship program and equine arena, outdoor education classes on survival and hunting, a poultry barn that houses turkey, chicken and quail, and miles of terrain for walks, hikes and bike rides.
Bonner pointed out that it is not only the boys residing at the Boys Ranch that benefit from the activities and resources.
“All students from the Waco campus are welcome to attend afterschool programs at the ranch as well,” she said. “Adding to that, each year we host events for all MCH youth, students and staff.”
This year, the Boys Ranch hosted its first Rowdy Rancho Games, a day packed full of outdoor competitions, agriculture showmanship, a fall worship service and an educational wildlife expo.
The Boys Ranch is also home to the Ag science classes and the FFA program for the MCH charter school. All youth who attend the school are eligible to participate in classes that include raising and showing swine, goats, sheep, and steer. Students also have access to a metalwork and a carpentry shop where they learn welding, mechanical and electrical skills.
Steve Kruse, Ag science teacher, said youth benefit from being introduced to and learning new skillsets and the activities the students participate in at the Boys Ranch have been known to help raise student test scores.
“Reading comprehension grows when students read blueprints; math skills are strengthened during the building of projects,” he said. “Speech skills and science are used, too. I believe this program has a high impact on our youth.”
Kruse said the impact of the Boys Ranch goes beyond building skills and gaining experience.
“This program teaches youth that not everyone can always win, but what you learn, no one can ever take that from you,” he said. “This place and this program will pay in dividends for years to come.”
Pat Close, director of ranching, has served at the Boys Ranch for 31 years. He says the Boys Ranch is an important component of MCH.
“The Boys Ranch is a good place because it helps youth build good work ethic and how to take ownership and pride in hard work,” he said. “In all my years here, I’ve seen a lot of growth happen and it has been good.”
According to Price, youth have countless opportunities at MCH to grow.
“Whether a child is in Ag, horsemanship, or is fishing off the dock, the lessons they are learning while doing these activities will follow them through their whole life,” Price said. “The Boys Ranch helps youth build tools that will last for a lifetime.” •