“Just wanted to let you know that I’m graduating today and just wanted to thank you so so much for all the help you gave me with school…. There’s absolutely no way I would be where I am today without all your help and support, and I definitely wouldn’t be walking across that stage. I’m so grateful that God put you in my life.”
So many students struggle with school. The National Education Association’s Twelve Point Plan for Reducing the School Dropout Rate pinpoints “community-based, real-world learning experiences for students” and involvement in small after school groups as a key factor in increasing the rate of high school graduation.
Brook Hill Farm’s unique program, United Neigh, utilizes Equine Assisted Learning combined with traditional tutoring to provide just such an experience for youth who are at-risk, have a disability, or are socially disadvantaged.
United Neigh accepts youth ages 12-18 from Lynchburg City and surrounding counties. The teens are from various backgrounds, some disadvantaged or abused, while others have learning or physical disabilities. Participants follow a program that instills self-confidence, a strong sense of personal responsibility, recognition of the value of teamwork, and real-life workplace skills. This is accomplished through a bond of trust with a horse whose background is, too often, just as painful as their own. The youth come to the farm two days a week and get to call a rescue horse their own as they aid the farm with its mission of rehabilitation.
College interns, earning college credit from local universities, serve as mentors. These role models promote the value of education, healthy lifestyle choices, and hard work in a safe, supportive family setting. Academic performance is a high priority; the youth struggling with school work are tutored by college interns, volunteers, and staff. Success at school is emphasized. Staff, college interns, and participants work together to help the students become proficient in subjects they struggle with.
The Equine Assisted Learning model provides a program that teaches young people a strong sense of personal responsibility, work ethic, and accountability. Everyone becomes a part of the Brook Hill family, sharing work, passion, triumphs and disappointments. Everyone works together towards the mission of helping the rescue horses.
Through hard work and love, the youth care for and heal their rescue horses, and, very often, find healing themselves. Since the program’s inception in 2002, the at-risk youth who have completed the program have all graduated from high school and have pursued some type of secondary education. Our research shows a 100% high school graduation rate among the participants, and most impressive, a 100% rate of pursuing continuing education!
The farm will be publishing the research soon, and will be sharing to further educate everyone on the benefits of Equine Assisted Learning.
“For the past three years I have been able to have the experience of not only riding but been able to do that in a caring, selfless, and emotionally safe environment.”