We received the letter below from Emily M., a wonderful former resident who graduated from Mountain Valley “a year ago.” We share the letter with Emily’s permission.

A year ago today I was packing up my room in Farmhouse. A year ago today I was freaking out about going to a new place, having to ‘start over’. A year ago today we were sitting in the blue room and I finally got to smash my plate.

Today I’m writing to you from school. This semester I’ve been going to the local public high school instead of the school on-campus at my current program, and it’s been terrifying and amazing. I went to the districts-level music festival with my choir and sang a solo at our spring expo. I’ve finished and actually turned in a semester’s worth of difficult school assignments, and only a few of them have been late. I’ve failed a test and survived it. I’ve been home at least once a month. I’ve made an amazing group of friends. It’s been hard, no denying that, but it’s been good.

In ten days, I graduate from my current program and go home for the year until I go away again – this time to college. This coming year, though, is so incredibly exciting – I only have eight more credits that I need to graduate from high school. That goal of graduation is one that I know I can achieve now, when a year ago or even six months ago, I wasn’t sure. I’m enrolled at my local community college as a dual enrollment student, and I auditioned into the top level choir at my high school. I’m taking driver’s ed this summer. I’ve taken all the usual standardized tests, and exceeded my own expectations both in sitting for the tests and accepting the scores that I’ve gotten back. I feel like I’m actually headed somewhere, and it’s a direction I’m really liking.

Anyway. Today is kind of hard for me, partially because I miss Mountain Valley so much, and partially because thinking about where I was a year ago is weird and terrifying. I could hardly imagine feeling this hopeful and this accomplished when I left Mountain Valley, and now, even though I experienced it, I can’t imagine being back in a place where I felt that. A year has made a lot of difference.

I just wanted to let you know. Thanks for everything.

Emily M.