“Home.” That’s Cheyenne’s immediate response when asked the one word she thinks of when she remembers her years at Epworth. Epworth has indeed been Cheyenne’s home for most of her life. When she was five years old, she and an older brother came here to live as a private placement.
Now Cheyenne is 18 years old and a freshman in college, the first in her family to do so. And she was awarded over $30,000 in scholarship funds to help finance her college career, as well as a new computer from a scholarship donor, a significant achievement for any student entering higher education. Cheyenne says without hesitation that “Epworth has given me much love and much help to get me where I am now.”
Cheyenne has grown into a successful and joyful young woman, graduating from Dreher High School last spring and now ready to enter Spartanburg Methodist College as an enthusiastic freshman this fall. Although she is modest, Cheyenne is proud of her academic accomplishments. Not only did she graduate from high school with strong academics, she also worked in several capacities in service to the community, including work with the Urban League in Columbia. Along with her friends in Anderson cottage, Cheyenne managed and ran the concession stand at Epworth during various events, and has had a part-time job at Chick-Fil-A. She has already negotiated a job back at Chick-Fil-A for seasonal work when she returns to Epworth from college for Christmas vacation. Cheyenne says, “I learned a lot about putting myself forward and letting people know that I am a hard worker.”
Although she is interested in science, particularly those career opportunities that deal with animals, Cheyenne is also an accomplished artist. She enjoys painting as a hobby, and had one of her works chosen for an art exhibit at Columbia College. She is taking 17 credit hours of classes at Spartanburg Methodist this semester, and is especially enjoying her First Aid and Safety class.
Cheyenne gives much credit to Epworth’s Barnes Learning Center for providing her with lots of academic support and tutoring over the years. She remembers academic support classes and tutoring when she was in elementary school, and members of Epworth’s staff who have been there to guide her throughout her school career. She is especially grateful for Mrs. Christy Mooneyhan, Epworth’s Vice President for Academics, who was always there to form a bridge between Epworth and school, and for Mrs. Laurie Brandes, Epworth’s Director of Independent Living, who helped her with college admissions work, and of course, who assisted her with all those scholarship forms and applications. Mrs. Bundrick, a tutor at Barnes Learning Center, gets Cheyenne’s special thanks for all those composition assignments she helped with.
When asked about special memories of her time at Epworth, Cheyenne is quick to mention wonderful Christmas celebrations, and how magical it was as a child to see all the happiness and sharing. She also fondly recalls all of the alumni weekends when former Epworth residents return to campus: “I always get them to tell me about their own lives when they lived here, and some of my favorite stories are about the old days when students would have dates here. They would have to sit in the living rooms of the cottages with their dates—and also with the cottage parents!” Cheyenne is most happy that Epworth has relaxed some of those dating protocols.
She also talks happily about the summer camp experiences that living at Epworth has allowed her to enjoy. One episode at Camp Glenayr, a small camp in Orangeburg for Epworth residents, sticks in her mind particularly well. As Cheyenne recalls it with much laughter, “I was so excited that I had caught a fish in the lake at camp. Once I got it pulled in and off my hook, Mr. Parker (Tom Parker, Epworth’s activities director) told me that it was customary for anybody to kiss the first fish they ever catch. So, I kissed the fish. I will never forget that, and always smile when I think about it.”
Cheyenne remembers parties, Epworth’s annual Christmas shopping trip to Walmart, getting to visit lots of different places, and all the special events she has enjoyed during all her years living at Epworth. And most importantly for Cheyenne, although she is now off at college, she has not cut her ties with Epworth at all. She now is a part of Epworth’s Independent Living Program, an initiative in which older students who are in college or the job market, live in a special dormitory that approximates apartment living. When she is home for vacation or during holidays, Cheyenne will live with her fellow Epworth older students and receive tutoring and academic support if she requests it, full room and board, and the opportunity to merge right back into Epworth and its activities—and its feeling of home.
Cheyenne ended her comments and memories about her life at Epworth the same way she began the conversation, by talking about Epworth as her home: “Everybody here has always felt like family to me, from almost the first day I arrived when I was five. I feel close to the staff who have helped me so much. And I especially want to say how much I love Reverend Holler. He has helped me through some tough times, and he is always so kind and supportive. I even like to hear him preach. When he is the guest minister at the church on the Epworth campus, he makes you want to pay attention to what he is saying. I always do.”