Tuition for a ranch that helps troubled teen girls usually exceeds what most families can pay. Which is why the director of Erda’s 180 Ministries Girls Ranch created a community event to help offset tuition costs with a bit of the Wild West.
Although Saturday’s first annual 180 Ministries Benefit Rodeo in Grantsville was a small start, director Greg Preston has big plans to grow the event in the future to help troubled teen girls.
This year, some cowboys, rodeo animals, and about 100 spectators combined to raise $3,000 for the troubled teen girls’ ranch.
Preston said there’s room for 16 girls in the program at one time. Most programs like the one in Erda, costs about $15,000 per month for one girl. But 180 Ministries manages on about $3,200 per month for each girl.
Yet, Preston said it’s still more than what most parents can pay, so 180 Ministries works to raise $115,000 every year for scholarships to offset costs. The ranch holds about six fundraising events during the year. The rodeo is the newest annual fundraising effort.
For its trial run, all 16 of the girls at 180 Ministries were present. One sang the national anthem.
The rodeo was also made memorable with a new contest called Wild Cow Milking. It uses wild beef cows instead of dairy cows. J.P. Reynolds, who came up with the benefit idea, said the wild cows don’t give as much milk as dairy cows, so the milk is harder to get.
The contest requires two partners. One ropes the cow, and then the other holds the cow while the first cowboy gets off his horse and tries to milk it. Once the cowboy has enough milk in a bottle, he races to the finish line to pour it out. Any amount will do, as long as the judges can see it.
“They’re wild, crazy cows,” Reynolds said. “It’s something that we kind of added. It’s a lot of fun.”
The rodeo fits with 180 Ministries’ small ranch lifestyle. The girls, who range in ages from 12 to 17, take care of the animals on the 5-acre farm as part of their daily chores.
“We have three horses, and we have a goat named Pixel,” said Jazmine, 17, who is one of the residents.
There’s also a steer, seven cats, 12 chickens and a garden area. The girls take turns taking care of the animals and doing other chores like cooking, washing dishes and cleaning.
“It’s kind of fun to move around in the different areas,” Jazmine said.
Preston explained that 180 Ministries aims to help teenage girls recover from addictive habits and build new personal cultures to help them in their futures.
“It’s a complete turn around,” he said. “Our girls often think yeah, we’re doing a 360. We say, ‘no, you’re not, don’t do a 360. It will take you right back. It’s a 180.’ It’s a complete change, a complete redirection from the direction they were headed.”
The program takes 15 months to complete. Often girls arrive without knowing they’re coming. Preston said it’s the last resort for some parents, who want the best for their girls and don’t know what else to do.
“We provide them a place to stay as well as point them to God,” Preston said. “Often, recovery programs help people to know different steps to take in life but you’re kind of on your own. When you’re looking to the creator for help, you realize that he never leaves … That’s something we think our program offers the student.”
Preston said during the first phase of the program, the girls have time for introspection.
“When you get here, you feel alone,” he said. “You feel really devalued. You feel abandoned by your parents. During the first phase, which is three to four months, we’re encouraging them to just look at themselves, look to see how God looks at them.”
The second phase focuses on rebuilding relationships and forgiving others. It takes about three months to complete.
“In the third phase, we focus on servant-leadership,” Preston said. “We believe that every one of these girls that come in here is meant to be a leader, and often stubbornness is one of the best traits of leadership. We teach them how to be a leader, but with a servant’s heart.”
The third phase also takes three months to complete, and the fourth phase can take three to four months, depending on the girl.
The fourth phase focuses on the change in culture. Preston said for many of the girls, cultures of drug use like marijuana, as well as lying and other destructive habits, have been normal for them.
“That’s the thing,” Reynolds said. “Most of the girls will say that’s normal. I don’t understand why you’re so against that. That’s something that I see a lot.”
“And we just let them talk like that, because there’s no convincing them at that point,” Preston said, “But during the culture change, they recognize that marijuana actually slows them down. It causes them to kind of not care about life. It affects their ability to do what they’re supposed to do well.”
The fifth phase, which takes two months, is about transitioning the girls back home.
“One thing that I’ve found as I talk to the girls is the majority of them end up not wanting to go back because they don’t want to go back to that culture,” Reynolds said. “A lot of them are like there’s no other thing for me there, I can’t go there.”
Preston said they try to help the girls connect with churches and other support systems in their hometowns. They also provide a few internships for girls who graduate the program but want to come back to help other girls succeed.
“With that servant leadership again, they’re changing people’s lives and doing really great things,” he said.
Jazmine is currently in the fifth phase.
“The hardest thing for me to overcome will be how to find good friends,” said Jazmine, who is scheduled to go back home in June.
“It scares me,” she said. “God is going to have to find people that are healthy for me.”
In spite of her apprehension about going home, good things have come out of the program. She’s learning to deal with pride issues, anger management problems, and a propensity for lying. She’s also made friends with her little brother.
“That relationship has been healed,” she said. “We’re excited for me to come home. Before the program, we used to fight all the time. Now he is my best friend, and that’s weird, because we’re five years apart, but in all reality, when I grow up, I’ll be able to call and tell him things.”
Both Jazmine and her brother are athletes. She looks forward to training with him, to playing intramural sports at the community college she’ll attend next year, and to building a career in sports medicine.
“I’ve always wanted to be a kinesiologist,” she said. “Doing sports medicine is my passion. I really want to help other athletes.”
Preston said that if she’s had this dream for a long time, she should follow it as a path God put in front of her.
He hopes to expand 180 Ministries and help more girls. It’s not easy, though. The mortgage on the house and property is $388,000. When it’s paid off, he anticipates helping more girls at a lower cost.
The goal for this initial rodeo was to raise around $20,000, with $5,000 to purchase prizes for the rodeo that could help draw in good competitors each year and the rest of the money going back to the girls at 180 Ministries.
While they didn’t make the first goal, Preston said it was a good trial run. Even though it was Easter weekend, the number of audience members made it into the triple digits, and, he said, the event drew some big name competitors.
Reynolds said using the rodeo as a benefit was possible mostly because Triple P Rodeo donated the stock that was used as well as its time and resources to transport the animals and take care of them.
“It’s a lot that they’re giving,” Reynolds said. “It’s a huge, huge thing.”
Preston said the goal of the rodeo in following years will be the same as this years’ goal — to raise enough money to help offset the cost of tuition for the girls at 180 Ministries, who wrestle with problems bigger and tougher than wild cows.
“The difference this rodeo can make is it will make it possible for a girl to have a place to come that will remove her from a culture that is destructive to her,” Preston said. “It will allow her to get a different perspective on herself and her future.”
They’re already looking forward to the next rodeo.
“We’re very hopeful for next year,” Preston said.