I was fortunate to grow up in a very small community. With only 13 in my graduating class, we all knew each other well. Except for a few occasional move-ins and those families who moved away, my classmates and I were very close as we spent many hours with one another. I never wanted for a friend. I always had great friends who had my back and understood me as I had their back and was there for them in their time of need. I never recall bullying or belittling of others, and if it did occur, I was not aware of it.

It has been difficult to hear the many parents express the mistreatment their daughters have had to endure. It seems that this cruelty is becoming commonplace for many of our youth. Thankfully, the girls at Cascade Academy are all respectful and kind to one other. They share many things in common along with suffering with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Being away from home, family and friends to receive treatment takes an incredible amount of courage. Certainly, they have disagreements but they are learning how to navigate through the ups and downs in all their relationships in a healthy way.

As Valentine’s day is approaching I have been pondering the meaning of this holiday. I don’t believe it’s just for romantic relationships but it extends to family, friends and even strangers. With a world filled with hate, criticism and disregard for those who do not believe as we believe, live as we live, or think as we think we could use more love and tolerance for those who differ from us.

I have been told two of the most basic human needs are to be understood and to be needed. A kind listening ear, patience with differences, and reaching down to lift up those who need a helping hand is what life is all about. We all suffer, have pain of disappointment and loss and need a friend.

I am the first to admit I sometimes fall short of the ideal of patience and love towards all. It takes a great deal of maturity to love others in spite of how they feel about us. I am truly in awe of how our girls have handled the difficult, challenging things that life has handed them. They are strong, and full of courage and determination to overcome and live a fulfilling life. The greatest attribute they will take with them through life is how they treat others. Treating others with dignity and respect regardless of differences is what we hope all our girls will learn here at Cascade Academy.

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