Dove Vavra arrived at Maryville in 1998. She was assured that her stay would probably be just 90 days. It turned out to be four years. At the time, Dove was most upset. Today she has a different take on the situation. “I found a family. I made life-long friends. These people, who hadn’t a clue who I was, cared about me.”
Dove was a private placement at Maryville. She was, in her own words, “A rebel, a runner, and a very angry child. I felt that I had been abandoned. It took me a while to realize that what I had been given was a real gift. Maryville stood by me from the beginning to the end and I will always be grateful.”
Dove recalls her first Christmas at Maryville: “I got clothes and a new bicycle. I had never had a present like that before. A new bike! I think that was the first of many turning points for me. I thought to myself that I needed to act differently; that the Maryville staff really were trying to help me.”
“I was enrolled at Nipper School adjacent to Maryville. I had a lot of catching up to do and I really tried. I made an effort. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. I struggled. I’d get discouraged. I’d mess up. But I kept trying. By the time I was a senior, I was enrolled in Hersey High School. My grades were pretty good – good enough that if I was accepted by a school, I could go to college. Maryville helped me find that way.”
“I owe so much to Maryville; to Kathleen Samuelson, Jeanne Brock, and many other staff members that helped me along the way. Dove worked at Maryville’s Teen Parenting Center, and volunteered at Columbus Maryville. “I received an Associate Degree from Lincoln College; I had an eight month internship with Disney in Florida; and I received my Bachelor’s Degree from Elmhurst College in Special Education. All of that was made possible because of my family – Maryville. I was so impressed by the staff at Maryville and Nipper that I decided that I wanted to be what they were to me; a role model, a teacher.”
Today, Dove is implementing a pilot program in special education at Jack London Middle School in Wheeling, Illinois, a project of the Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization. “They offered me this great opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up,” said Dove.
Dove still meets up with friends she made while at Maryville. She stays in touch with Kathleen and Jeanne. She is a frequent visitor to the Maryville campus. A final thought from Dove: “I don’t regret a single thing that happened before, during or after Maryville. If it hadn’t been the way it was, I never would have gotten to where I am today.”