I met Francesca Cooper at our last Gateway District Regional Training event in Raytown, MO, and asked her to share her story. Here is a young lady called to reach out and impact the next generation. It’s amazing what happens when we step into God’s leading for our lives. – Shawn M. Shoup, Gateway District NextGen Rep
My mom and dad became foster parents when I was 12 years old. We had recently moved from Alton, Illinois, and were now in the middle of nowhere in Troy, Missouri. My whole family was about to go through a transition that would leave us completely changed.
My parent’s first placement was a girl who we will call Janet. Janet was a prostitute by the age of 15 and said words I had never heard. When other girls would come stay with us, I would wake up in the middle of the night to hearing Janet and another girl fighting, sometimes verbally and other times physically. The most girls I ever shared a room with were five. Five girls who, with all their quirks and obnoxious moments, I loved like they were my biological sisters.
As I grew up, I began college when I was sixteen. I knew what I wanted. I wanted to teach kids — kids like Janet who may not have had the opportunity to be loved like the thirty-five kids my parents had helped. While being a student at Missouri Baptist University, I worked at a small Christian school in my town. After the first semester, I noticed that there were many students who reminded me of Janet. They had been emotionally and/or physically abused and could not self-regulate in the environment we were providing for them.
I knew what had to be done.
I spent weeks in preparation for the next board meeting. I went to the meeting and proposed a plan that was especially designed for behavioral and special education students. The students would be provided an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and teachers that would be trained to help them get a quality education while being aware of their emotional needs. The board members’ answer wasn’t “We don’t have the funding” or even “We don’t have the amount of staff needed.” Instead it sounded something like this: “We don’t want those types of kids around our school.”
I was devastated.
The fact that these board members couldn’t see that they already had these students was alarming. I knew God had given me the passion to help these students and for the school to say they “didn’t want those kids around” was more than discouraging. It was heartbreaking. I’ve always struggled with rejection and to hear those words made me question God. I remember asking Him, in a not respectful way, “Why are you allowing this to happen?”
Shortly after that, God reminded of this verse in Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I wish I would have had more faith during this time, but God was teaching me a valuable lesson. It’s amazing how, when you trust God, He begins to work through you. God gave me a vision shortly after this where I started my own learning center that would do exactly what He put on my heart years before.
The following school year, Maverick Learning Center opened. We have served over 70 students in the last two years, and God continues to bring us more. He has provided wonderful instructors who make daily sacrifices to serve the student body. God knew that my passion wouldn’t be fulfilled at the first school I taught at. He had Maverick planned before I was even born. Only He is capable of fulfilling our dreams. It is our job to listen, trust, and obey when He calls.
Director of Maverick Learning Center