A West Virginia Woman’s Wish
Hannah Kinder-Schuyler, Faculty

“Often in life we feel trapped or made helpless by our circumstances. This hopeless feeling is based in a lie: that all these things surrounding us are all there is. Hope – the theological virtue – reminds us there is always more than we can see, more that we can become, more God wants for us… One thing [learning] does very well is give you many little opportunities to see your way out to that bigger world, that bigger truth, that greater spiritual being who lives inside you, who is so much more capable, more valuable, more beautiful than you can ever know.”

-Shawn Schuyler, my loving father

At Forest Ridge, it truly feels as if anything is possible. When I climb the hill in my little Honda Civic, looking out over the lakes, the cities, and the mountains in the morning, I can’t help but revel in the thought, “This is my life now. I’m really here.” When I arrive on campus, I am greeted with smiles, which may be from a stranger, but never feel strange. The breeze is beautiful. The grey-white morning light is instantly refreshing. The air feels cool and bright, and in it, swims possibility.

This feeling of possibility is not specific to me. I see it in the excitement our staff and hear it in the voices of our students. There is a constant aura of ambition, an undeniable drive that I sense in the eyes and hearts of those who are fortunate enough to attend this wonderful school. Beyond this, though, is hope. Hope is not something I had sensed for a long time. 

I have a wish for the students of these underprivileged areas, for the children I care for so deeply that I’ve left behind. I want them to feel what the students of Forest Ridge feel and what I feel when I walk onto this campus. If by the grace of God, they could receive the same kind of support these students do, they would know just how special and capable they are. My wish is that joy could belong to them too, that all the children and teachers who feel this crushing pressure of despondency find some semblance of relief. Opportunity would knock, and they’d have hands strong and free enough to answer. They would look at the mountains and see something to climb, a new height to reach, a possibility close enough to grasp, hope.

Forest Ridge is a premier model of academic excellence, no doubt. It’s where girls go to succeed and innovate. It is something more than this though. It is a network of like-minded educators, administrators, and clergy who lift from the legs to raise up these young women. These children are so full of joy, so intelligent, and so loving. They are truly working towards being their best selves under an expectation of accountability within a culture that teaches resilience. I am so grateful to see them flourish socially, spiritually and academically.

Personally, I am met with gratitude every day by parents and students, as well as my co-workers and supervisors. I’m inclined to believe it’s because we all feel this energy, the flickering, dancing buzzing energy on the Ridge. It burns as bright as the Sacred Heart, it warms and inspires, it guides us to be “humble, patient [and] pure.”

On days when I work in the dormitory, I travel down the same hill to go home (of course), but I do so at night. Even when it’s dark, you can still see the lights from Bellevue and Seattle. They reflect off the clouds in the sky and onto the water, the shadow of mountains stamped into a distant sky. I think of my previous home, of those Appalachian Mountains, hundreds of miles across the nation. As my car weaves down Somerset Boulevard, alone on the winding road, I can’t help but revel in the thought: “I hoped just hard enough.”