The alarm goes off at 6:00 AM. Following a quick breakfast, five teenage girls crowd into the bathroom to brush their teeth and hair, then grab their books and head off to school. This routine repeats itself all over the American landscape, but for the girls of the Marion House, the fact that they are going to school at all is a blessing. These girls, most court ordered to be here, have never learned the value of a formal education. Rather, they have learned the lessons of abuse and addiction all too well; a curriculum far too abrasive for those of such a tender age.
More delicate still are the children each Marion House girl has brought into the world. Barely on the verge of adulthood themselves, the onus of parenthood weighs heavily on girls whose own caretakers at best neglected them, at worst violated them. Monica Zindler, Founder and Executive Director of the Marion House, explains that while some may see this as a burden, “These children give them (the girls) something to live for; someone who will love them back. Their children are a blessing.”
Aptly named “Empowering Families through Education,” NWTC has partnered with the Marion House to offer Early
Childhood Education courses to the 13-17 year-old girls in the group home. As a pioneer of the program, which began as a capstone to an NWTC leadership development experience, Dean of Academic Advising John Grant believes the value is much greater than the college credit offered. “These girls have not had positive experiences with education in the past,” Grant expressed. “It simply has not been a priority. This allows them to have success and see themselves as college students.”
Monica Zindler agrees. “Education is power. NWTC is a huge factor in the girls’ future success.” A devout Christian, Zindler launched the Marion House in 1994 as a division of Christian Group Home, Inc., yet she refrains from overtly espousing the Gospel. “The Gospel is shown to them by the volunteers who come here. It is gently preached, but boldly demonstrated.”
The day I visited the Marion House, the girls were in mourning. One of their residents left to visit her family with a 28 day-old infant. Late one evening, the baby stopped breathing in an apparent case of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Overwhelmed by this story and the tragic pasts of many of the home’s residents, I asked Zindler how many times her heart has been broken. Her response surprised me; “My heart is broken. It is given to God and God alone. The Marion House is my calling.”
Zindler’s unshakable faith and undeniable strength, combined with NWTC’s financial support and the love of staff members like instructor Mary Beth Boettcher and mentor Kelly Casperson (featured in video clips above), have given these girls hope. The fork in the road is in front of them but the girls must make the choice for themselves; into the darkness or toward the light. Zindler and NWTC may not be rewriting history, but they are brightening the future.
My thanks to Monica Zindler for sharing her story, as well as the Marion House for granting permission for picture use from www.marionhouse.org.