Supported by the McCarthy Social Services Fund

This story is from our fall 2021 newsletter. See the full newsletter here!

Art can teach us things about ourselves that nothing else can. “Art lets me express my emotions in a safe way,” remarks one student at the C-V Ranch remarks one student at the C-V Ranch School in Teton County. “It’s easier than using words,” says another. For these young people, art is something special: it’s “a part of me that I’m able to have for myself.”

These lessons can have profound impacts on a young person’s life. When art helps students “develop a more positive self-image, the door opens for other areas of growth as well,” says Tonia Ralston. Tonia is the art instructor and program coordinator at the school. By teaching art, Tonia hopes to give each student a chance to explore their “environment, ethnicity, cultural background, and community.”

The C-V Ranch School hosts young people from across Wyoming with special emotional and intellectual needs. During residential programs lasting at least three months, students have room to grow and learn in a safe space.

While the school offers students a safe haven, the art program lets them build connections with the community in a meaningful way. The young artists learn from local experts and take field trips. Their work is shown around the community. Pieces by the students have even been displayed at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson.

Tonia is passionate about her program, believing that the students “have the potential to succeed – to live full lives, to experience joy, and to realize accomplishment.” An experienced artist and teacher, Tonia has been at C-V Ranch School since 1993 – long enough to see this impact time and again.

Much of this program’s success comes from the stability it offers to students. “To have consistency in the program is especially important to our population, who definitely does find reassurance when things are predictable,” remarks Tonia. This consistency is possible because of donors like you. Your support has allowed for real, positive change in the lives of countless young people.

That change gives these kids hope for a brighter future. As one student said, “It’s kept me moving forward in the flow with my life…. I have the idea that maybe if I can go to college, I would continue taking art classes. I’d like to be an art teacher too.”