The Most Important Subject of All?

Kristin Walko Profile
Article by Kristin Walko
Dean of Students

"Then…pretty soon…this kid who hated school just simply started applying himself."

Michael came to Gateway Woods on probation for drug and alcohol issues. Gateway Woods School (GWS) provided tutoring and other resources to help him catch up on his lacking credits. We did not give up on him, although he wanted to give up multiple times. Week after week passed. Then…pretty soon…this kid who hated school just simply started applying himself.

He attended school every day. He started earning credits. He began reading books because he enjoyed reading books. Unfortunately, he was too far behind to be able to graduate on time, so he decided to go for his high school equivalency. And this kid accomplished something that he never thought possible: he earned his high school equivalency!

Michael’s whole outlook on life changed. He realized that drugs don’t have to control him. He realized he can do well. He also realized that he had a talent for acting and came alive under the lights of a stage.

Each spring, I teach a theater class where students learn about the dramatic arts, with a final exam of participating in the school play. I asked Michael to be in the play and he hesitantly agreed. He was given a small role and had his lines memorized word for word. I was so proud of him!

The following spring, I started asking him, "Hey, would you..." and he interrupted with a resounding "YES! I’ll be in the play! I got you, Mrs. Walko!" Then, just a couple weeks before the play, he had court. You see, Michael was now 18, he had his high school equivalency, and he had made really great progress in the Gateway Residential program. It was looking like the judge would send him home.

And what did Michael do? He advocated for himself! He told the judge how he committed to act in this play, how he is working for Gateway Farms and earning money, that he wanted to stay at Gateway for a couple more weeks to complete the Residential program. And you know what? The judge granted his request.

Michael was amazing in the play! He had a lead role and was the star of the show. Everyone loved him!

Working at GWS is an adventure. It’s full of ups and downs and you never know what each day will bring. But it is SO worth it. When you work at GWS, you get to watch teenagers realize the potential that was there all along. You make a difference in students’ lives and you get to teach them about the most important subject of all: Jesus!

Kristin is currently the Dean of Students at the Gateway Woods School.