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Finding Purpose, Finding Home: Mountain Mission School

Mountain Mission School provides more than an education. For students like Wanda Beery, it provided a path forward.

Nestled in the mountains of Grundy, Virginia, Mountain Mission School (MMS) might look like a regular K-12 campus — but inside, it’s much more than that.

“Mountain Mission School is a home, a school, and a church for children in need,” said Wanda Beery, Outreach and Alumni Coordinator at MMS. “We help kids who did not get a great chance at just being kids.”

MMS was founded in 1921 to provide a safe haven for Virginia’s children in need. Since then, its reach has expanded far and wide — children from more than 80 countries and almost every U.S. state have received care and education at the campus in Grundy. “The majority of our children come to us out of poverty,” said MMS President Chris Mitchell. “One of our greatest missions is to break that cycle.”

“Our kids can be as young as six months old, to all the way through seniors in high school. More than 95% of our students go on to college,” said Jessica Hertzog, MMS Vice President and Director of Education. “Students have opportunities to participate in athletics, different clubs, youth groups, a little bit of everything. They feel safe and secure and are able to experience peace and happiness in this environment.” To date, the school has provided a loving home and robust education to more than 20,000 kids from all over the world — including Wanda Beery.

The majority of our children come to us out of poverty. One of our greatest missions is to break that cycle.” – Chris Mitchell, President, Mountain Mission School

Like most students at Mountain Mission School, Wanda came to Grundy from an unstable childhood home — but everything changed when she and her siblings arrived at MMS. “I came to Mountain Mission School because there was a lot of violence going on in my own home,” she said. “A lady in the neighborhood told my dad about Mountain Mission School. Next thing you know, we came the eight hours to Mountain Mission, sight unseen. We were shown that we were going to be loved, and when we finally felt that we could let our guard down, we could just start enjoying ourselves as kids.”

As a student, Wanda participated in a huge variety of activities, from sports to youth group. As time went on, she got more and more involved, and her teachers began to see her as a leader among her classmates. “She was the kind of child who would stand up to what she saw was wrong and confronted it,” said MMS Vice President Ernie Hertzog. “She never saw herself as a leader, but she certainly led.”

By the time she graduated from MMS, Wanda was ready to take on the world — but something kept calling her back to her home in Grundy. “I worked at several nonprofit organizations, but at the end of the day, I felt that something was missing,” she recalled. “I wanted to be that person who could help a young me be who God made me to be. So, I turned to my friends and I said, ‘I'm coming back to work here.’”

Since her return to MMS, Wanda — “Ms. B” to her students — has watched dozens of kids grow as academics, friends and children of God. “Wanda has a unique perspective that I don't have,” Ernie said. “She sat in the chairs that these kids sat in. She knows every child here deserves the best.”

Wanda’s students reflected on the lessons they’ve learned from her. “Ms. B is the type of person to tell you the truth, no matter what kind of circumstance you might be in. If I needed some advice, I would go up to her,” said Henok, a senior.

The biggest thing I've learned is it's okay to be different from other people as long as you're living your own path and following your own journey,” said senior student Millicah. “I definitely did learn that from Ms. B. I have learned to share the same love to help others, because I know it could go a long way.”

Wanda’s drive to help kids become the best version of themselves doesn’t just bring MMS’s mission to life — it makes a tremendous and lasting impact on her students’ lives, long after graduation. “I want them to feel like they are important enough to make a change,” Wanda said. “That the circumstances of what brought them to Mountain Mission does not define who their future self is going to be.”

Learn more about Mountain Mission School.

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