Virginia school helps at-risk youth

The children come from all over the world, and they're in need of a life change.

GRUNDY, VA (WUSA9) - Four hundred miles outside of Washington, D.C. in the mountains of southwest Virginia, sits the town of Grundy. And in that town is the Mountain Mission School.

In all, 260 students attend the school. They come from 20 countries, including the United States. Each student calls this school home.

"Everyone here is here for a new start," said Wanda Beery, who teaches at the school. "And that's what we will give them."

They live on campus in dorms, where their teachers are right next door.

"A chance to grow up. A chance to live another day," Beery said. "And maybe if they're lucky, an education."

Because nothing about their life, up until this point, has been fair.

"Some of our kids have seen atrocities that you would never wish on anyone: to see people shot, to see people killed in front of you, to see homes destroyed, to live in fear daily," she said.

"It was the middle of the night," said Jerry, a student from the Congo. "We got attacked. We have people enter the house with guns. They said, 'If you move, we will kill you.'"

"In Afghanistan I went to a school for six years called ISIC," Samim said. "The Taliban, they threatened our school and they closed."

"It was hard at first when we cam here," said Nahom, who is from Ethiopia. "My dad left. That was one of the hardest things coming here."

"I see when they get here," Beery said. "I see all the emotions across their faces. The fear and the loneliness."

These are two things Beery knows all too well. Violence filled her northwest D.C. home when she was growing up in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Beery and her siblings grew up watching her father beat her mother.

"He would strike her. Throw her against the wall," Wanda said. "My mom left. And my dad found himself with three kids in the city."

When Beery's father either couldn't, or didn't, want to keep her and her siblings, they needed a new home. She was 11 years old.

"We are getting on the bus. Lots of kids around with their parents," Beery said. "I have never talked about this day."

"We just sat there so confused. We were little. We were young. We just didn't know what was happening or why," she said. "All the questions. "Why would he send us away? What did we do wrong? Does he not love us?"

Beery's questions would soon be answered and her feelings wouldn't last long. She spent six years at the Mountain Mission School.

"Something we've never felt in that way before. Not to sound weird and cheesy but really just sunshine on a dark time."

Then she went on to college and a successful career in D.C.

"But I got to the point that at the end of the day I felt like something was missing," Beery said.

All it took was a weekend visit to her old school.

"I'm like, 'Yeah, this is where I'm supposed to be.'"

So Beery packed up her life, and made that same trip down I-81. Back to where it all began.

She's been at the Mountain Mission School for 16 years, as the outreach coordinator. It's where she found her calling and her husband.

But does she still think of her father and that day he left?

"He doesn't know, probably, that it was the best thing that he could have ever done for us," she said.

Through heartbreak, and in the most unlikely place, Beery came home.

"For whatever his reasons were for sending us, I thank him for the rest of my life," she said


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