Dreams for her future: Family Place Conroe prepares first resident for graduation

Story and photography by Chelsea Quackenbush

When Angie Wood smiles, she smiles big. And when she dreams, she dreams even bigger.

Master’s degree.
Fulbright Scholar Program.
A doctorate.
Oxford University.
Traveling Europe.
Studies in Vienna, Austria.
Teaching college.

Her face lights up as she talks about the dreams she has for herself and for her 4-year-old son, Jonah.

She’s studying history at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, and specializing in World War II and the Holocaust. It’s a passion she didn’t discover until last year –in fact, up until then, she spent several years preparing to be a dental hygienist.

During one of her semesters, Angie took a beginning history class and an introduction to world religions class at Lone Star College in Montgomery, Texas. While she studied anti-Semitism in one of her classes, and World War II in the other, questions about the war and religious persecution kept popping into her mind and she felt hungry for answers.

“I realized at that point history was something I had to keep doing,” she said. “It was a passion I never knew I had.”

“I have a 4.0 (at Sam Houston). I’m working on keeping a 4.0 so I can get a Fulbright scholarship to get my master’s. My goal has always been to go to Oxford in England. A lot of options have opened up to me since I’ve taken this World War II class.”

After her master’s degree, Angie wants to go to Austria to start a doctoral program. Her dream is to travel Europe and visit all of the main stages of the war. After that, she might teach college – or work at a museum in Berlin. She said she’s not really sure – but she knows God has a plan for her that’s even better than she can imagine.

‘The chance to do my best’

Angie and Jonah were the first residents to move into Family Place Conroe in 2010. At the time, Angie was working toward her associate’s degree at Lone Star, which she completed in spring 2012. A co-worker introduced her to Brenda Shuttlesworth, director of Family Place Conroe. They chatted and Angie moved in soon after.

“I was two months away from being homeless,” Angie said. “I was in school, working at the college. Rent was going up, bills were going up, and there was day care and gas to pay for. I had to swallow a lot of pride to get help. It was a big eye-opener to see how perfect God’s timing really was.”

Angie’s father had medical problems growing up and she said it made him bitter. She wasn’t close to her family so she followed her older sister and brother-in-law to Texas when she was 21.

“When I first moved to Texas, everything was new and exciting and different,” she said. “I didn’t have to answer to anyone anymore. No one could tell me I wasn’t good enough. I was tired of always being ignored. I always slid under the radar … Mom first kicked me out of the house when I was 16 or 17.”

She worked dead-end jobs and got pregnant with Jonah at 24. She worked 12-hour night shifts while she was pregnant and got laid off when Jonah was 2 weeks old.

Angie knows without Buckner, she might have been lost in the cycle of dead-end jobs and living paycheck to paycheck. She says she is thankful for the help and healing she’s received while in the program, but even more thankful for the help with Jonah.

“I think I’ve always been a determined person and I’ve always been pretty ambitious, but I think this opportunity has given me the chance to do it at my best. There’s no way I would’ve been able to be as strong in my schooling and as strong at home without the program. I can’t even imagine where we would’ve been.”

Facing challenges, getting help

In December 2011, Jonah was diagnosed a developmental disorder on the Autism spectrum. But it’s a different type of Autism, she said. Unlike other children with Autism, Jonah’s motor skills are excellent, and he can make eye contact. His major challenges are speech and language delays. She said he has a hard time understanding and answering questions. His social skills are improving, but Angie is unsure if he’ll ever fully develop them.

“I think to some extent, God prepared me for what was coming. Each day is hard for the two of us. It’s hard as a mom to know there’s something different about him because you look down the line and you think, ‘Is he going to be made fun of? Is he going to be bullied? Is this something that nobody else is going to be able to understand?’”

But Jonah is getting the help he needs because of Buckner. He sees a speech therapist and a behavioral therapist to help him express his emotions. Angie said he’s improved dramatically and even plays with other kids now.

The unknown road ahead

Angie and Jonah are graduating from Family Place this summer. They know they’re moving to Huntsville to be closer to school but other than that, their future is wide open. They’re terrified but excited for what God has in store.

“It’s terrifying, not knowing where you’re going to be, not having the security that you’ve got at Family Place,” Angie said. “But God’s always provided for us, He really has. If there’s one word to describe God in our family, it’s Provider. We were two months from being homeless when we found Buckner. And every time we found ourselves in a sticky situation where we didn’t know what would happen, God has provided.

“I know that I’m where I’m meant to be and I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. It’s scary –I’m a Type A personality and I like to have a plan– not being able to plan where we’re going to live or where the money is going to come from. It’s frightening not to know what’s ahead but I think everybody, at some point, has to deal with not knowing what the future holds.”

Would you like to join us in the transformational ministry of Buckner Family Place? You can help by donating online now to support single parents like Angie as they work toward getting an education and achieving self-sufficiency. (Feel free to designate your gift by writing in the comments box on the donation form.) You can also contact Buckner Foundation to learn about more ways to give by calling 214-758-8000.

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