WRAL Voters' Choice names CORRAL Riding Academy best nonprofit for at-risk girls
Posted February 2, 2021 6:47 a.m. EST
Updated February 2, 2021 9:16 a.m. EST
Cary, N.C. — Before the pandemic, many adolescent girls in high risk situations in Wake County struggled with their emotions as well as with their grades. COVID-19 precautions and remote learning only made it worse.
"Before virtual school started, it was hard and I needed a lot of help, and it’s not the same as in person," said one participant of CORRAL Riding Academy’s academic and equine therapy program. She preferred not to share her name.
The faith-motivated nonprofit now operates two sites in Cary and eastern Wake County. Participants used to come on weekdays for an after-school program and then stay all day on Saturdays, but the pandemic required a change.
"Last summer we completely re-imagined our program to develop what we call homeschool pods," said Managing Director Lauren Clements.
Now, about eight participants come to a small building on CORRAL’s eastern Wake County property. The converted shed is equipped like a tiny school house where students connect with their virtual classes. Staff and volunteers provide tutoring as well as personal support.
The girls’ favorite class is time outdoors spent alone with their assigned horse.
"The horses are key to the girls’ success this year because that is how they are learning about healthy relationships," said Clements. "And they need those healthy relationships to work with their teachers and communicate with their parents."
The girls and the horses they are matched with have much in common.
"The horses are like humans, kind of. They have emotions just like us," said one participant.
"They’ve been abused and neglected and they have a lot of trauma in their lives, but they’ve overcome it, and that’s really inspiring for the girls," Clements said.
Clements said school grades are one way to measure the girls’ progress.
"Just this last quarter, two of our girls started with grades in the 50s and 60s and ended the semester with As and Bs."
Clements said the staff and volunteers are thrilled to be named the best nonprofit in WRAL’s Voters’ Choice Awards for 2020. She hopes the recognition will lead to more awareness and support for their mission to help vulnerable young women.