PENDLETON — Moriah and Patience Gaines are a study in both perseverance and resilience.
Moriah was 15 and Patience was 13 when the sisters were placed in foster care after being removed from their parents’ home by the Department of Social Services.
After a series of unsuccessful foster care placements, in 2007 they entered the Tamassee Daughters of the American Revolution (TDAR) School and residential housing cottages, where they spent the better part of their adolescent years.
Tamassee DAR School offers a stable, nurturing home-like environment to children while their family works to resolve circumstances contributing to the crisis situation. Children are provided the opportunity to grow
In the beginning it wasn’t easy, the sisters say, reacclimating their lives, learning discipline and trust after years of turbulence and disappointments.
Longing for stability, they embraced the TDAR principles and began to rebuild their lives and to thrive.
“You can’t dwell on the past,” said Moriah. “TDAR taught us we were not alone in our struggles. Everyone here has experienced some crisis in their lives; but you must continue to move forward,” said Patience.
“I wouldn’t be half the person I am today if it weren’t for TDAR,” added Patience.
They say they couldn’t have done it without the counseling and help of TDAR After Care Services Coordinator Cyndi Padgett, who is like a mother to them. Since graduating from Tamassee-Salem High School, they are both furthering their education at Tri-County Technical College, each earning a national DAR scholarship. Moriah graduated from high school with a 3.8 and Patience with a 3.77 grade point average. “Both girls are very intelligent. Both of them have really come into their own and are building a beautiful life beyond the turbulence,” said Padgett.
“There is life after loss and they have moved forward. They took their opportunity and ran with it. They are TDAR success stories,” said Padgett. “They have rebuilt their own lives. Over the years, they have been shuffled through a series of unsuccessful foster homes, which have been disappointments, but they are grateful for their chance at an education. They will make it,” she said.
Both are invested in their education. Moriah, 21, is a Criminal Justice major and wants to work in social services, possibly with foster children.
Patience, 19, is a business major and wants to own her own business one day.
Both maintain jobs at Aldi stores and are considering their career options when they graduate. They credit the TDAR School with teaching them life skills to be successful.
It was a positive experience, they said. Both never dreamed they could attend college. Patience said she never thought about college or graduating from high school before entering the TDAR School. “Our mom didn’t finish high school, said Moriah, “and although Dad graduated from Trident Technical College, they never talked about college.”
“Life changed after moving to the TDAR Campus House,” Patience said. “I learned how to prioritize.”
“We learned to get out there and express ourselves and to experience life,” added Moriah.
Their drive continued after leaving the TDAR residence. Both are focused on having a career and maintaining good grades and scholarships. “I won’t waste my potential, said Moriah. “Doing well is my primary focus.”
“Now we live in the present and the future,” said Patience.
Tri-County offers the same helping hand as Padgett did at TDAR, they say. “Instructors know you and care if you succeed,” said Patience.
“The first day I registered Criminal Justice Program Coordinator Chris McFarlin gave me advice about what classes were best for me and my goals. He’s an awesome teacher and advisor. There’s never a dull moment in his classroom,” said Moriah.
Patience says the same about Management Program Coordinator Tracy Ethridge. “She reassures you if you panic. She outlines a plan for you to be successful.”
Moriah is considering working with foster children, possibly a career at DSS. “Maybe I could help kids like us one day. I’ve been through the system and know what could be easier. I’d like to help them leave an unfit, unstable home and place them in a good environment.”
Patience is leaning toward the business world. “I’m a leader. I love management classes. One day I want to be the manager of a company. I’m good at multi-tasking and training. I like to establish and meet goals and to see results.”
“Both girls are very intelligent and self driven,” said Padgett. “Their self esteem and self worth have grown tremendously. They are best friends and are a lifeline to each other. They are building their own lives. They are invested in their education and will make it,” she said.
“I commend Tri-County,” said Padgett. “When I take students to enroll at Tri-County, I can trust they will receive the support they need from success coaches, instructors and counselors. This school year we have five seniors at TDAR and each one has chosen to accept the opportunity to attend college. TDAR will ensure they have the necessary support to be successful. At least four of the five seniors will attend Tri-County next year and we are excited.”