A NICU doctor, or a doctor who treats newborns in critical conditions, is what one 14-year-old girl wants to be when she grows up. A person might find the fact that she is currently in the Gilliam Youth Services Center in Denver make that yearning slightly improbable. Yet, Emily Schulte, one of our ministry leaders at that facility, doesn’t think that’s impossible. “This incredibly sharp girl that I’ve been talking to, if she can stay out of the (justice) system, has so much potential to do really great things in her life.”
Emily comes from South Carolina, where she was invited by a pastor through a 20s youth program to go and visit a jail with him. Initially she felt very nervous but ended up feeling it to be quite rewarding. So, when moving to Denver, she looked for a similar ministry and found DAYFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry.
Emily goes into Gilliam once or twice a month, listening and encouraging the girls she walks alongside. Her first priority is to be with the girls and listen to them, which is something they deeply need and want. She definitely brings up God if she’s able, and each time she lets them know she’s praying for them when she leaves for the night.
When describing the girls she works with, Emily emphasizes that they are just kids. That center holds youth who are 11 to 18 years old, and she regularly sees girls who are between 13 to 14 years old. Several of them struggle with anger issues so she strives to talk to them about how they can control their emotions, but as is with almost every characteristic we try to change in ourselves—it is easier said than done.
Emily marvels how they like reading books, coloring, talking about boys, and how they’ve even made up their own secret language. One thing that stands out the most is that they like to make up their own rap songs. Sometimes it ends up that one of the staff has music to play in the background, and the girls get the chance to try their projects out loud. Even one time Emily was asked to give her own, which she did try, but now she wonders if she should practice improving it for the next time they ask?
One thing she mentioned is that she is in awe of the staff that work there. She said they all have relationships with the kids. Certain kids are more attached to one of them, and they tend to get excited when that staff member is coming in. She feels it is very encouraging that the volunteers are not the only ones who care about the kids, as the staff also tease, joke, talk, and in a way, even mentor the kids.
Overall, DAYFC thanks God for volunteers like Emily. We thank God that she can see the best in others, even those in a detention center, and thus she sees them as God would see them. Emily admits that often she doesn’t see the fruits of her labor at all, but she just gives it to God, trusting that He is doing His work in His own way. And we pray that God would give her, along with all our volunteers, knowledge that they are appreciated and loved—by God and from us.
By: Christie Smith | Communication and Media Specialist