By Jean Wright
Sitting adjacent to the George W. Carroll Science Hall on the campus of Baylor University, Katherine talked about the path that led her to Methodist Children’s Home. Baylor students know the building as the setting of the final scene in the hit movie, “Where the Heart Is.” For Katherine, the building represents something more – a safe place where she has freedom of thought and expression as a professional writing and rhetoric student.
Born in Jeffersonville, Indiana, Katherine spent time in and out of foster care until she was adopted and relocated to Texas at age 3. In 2006, she visited the MCH Waco campus where her biological sister spent her adolescent years.
“I still have a picture from my first time on campus,” Katherine reflected. “It was a heavy day, where everything shifted for my family and me.”
Although she bonded with her sister through heartfelt gestures like sharing teddy bears and writing letters, the separation weighed heavy on her heart. Katherine silently suffered as she developed feelings of loneliness and self-doubt and experienced abuse as a youth. After high school, Katherine was accepted into an academic institution in rural Appalachia, Virginia. She quickly discovered success and was presented with the Freshman Academic Excellence Award and President’s List and Dean’s List distinctions her first year. This experience helped Katherine begin recognizing signs of her past trauma and realize the importance of self-advocacy.
“I started to accept myself in college by being honest about my past and finding my freedom,” she said.
Katherine unfortunately lost funding to continue school as well as access to necessary mental health resources. She relocated to Waco in 2020 where she reconnected with her sister after being separated for 13 years. Although Katherine hoped the move would improve her circumstances, she struggled to secure safe housing and found herself in a women’s shelter two years later. It was at that time she discovered MCH’s Independent Living Program (ILP) where she obtained housing, scholarships and friendship.
“The support and stability MCH provides has been a privilege,” Katherine said. “I have a real community here where I can connect with other women and commune and fellowship with people who care about me.”
Katherine continues to make the most of her opportunity by working hard to meet program goals. Through scholarship support and personal determination, Katherine transferred to Baylor in 2023 where she discovered her voice through a passion for writing and rhetoric.
“I’ve learned that self-advocacy is a form of self-love,” she said. “Writing helps me be gentle with myself while also inspiring me to claim my own potential by analyzing situations and expressing my ideas.”
School taught Katherine to think for herself by asking questions, challenging systems and making compelling arguments through her academic work.
Alyssa Lopez, ILP case manager, said Katherine strives to find a balance between work, school and daily living.
“The young woman I met in 2022 would be shocked to see what she has accomplished today,” Lopez said. “We are cheering her on as she works toward completing her degree and reaching her goals.”
Katherine keeps an active schedule outside of Baylor, working at a pottery store, volunteering at her local church and writing grants for a foster care placement agency. In each of these endeavors, Katherine enjoys using her creative liberties to give back and make a positive impact on her community. Katherine’s aspirations extend beyond her degree. She envisions a future in law or public policy to improve housing rights and the foster and adoption system. In this field, Katherine desires to inspire others to secure their future by educating on human rights and utilizing resources to the fullest. In doing so, she hopes others will realize their circumstances do not disqualify their potential. Katherine’s story is a testament to the power of personal perseverance and support offered by Methodist Children’s Home ministries.
“All of my experiences have been necessary and purposeful,” Katherine stated. “Above all, I have learned I have the choice to not let the trauma of my past control my future, while acknowledging the truth and giving myself grace to heal.” •