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New Life Children's Center | Upbring


Reflections From A Graduate

For high school seniors, the arrival of spring often means that one chapter of their lives is ending. In late May and early June, eager teenagers don silk gowns and tasseled caps as they are awarded their diplomas at ceremonies across the country, but on the campus of New Life Children’s Center – graduation day takes on a deeper meaning.


New Life is a residential treatment center tucked among the trees in the Texas hill country. Much like the landscape it’s built on, the girls at New Life have often encountered numerous valleys in their own lives, such as years of neglect and abuse that have led to significant trauma. New Life serves as a place to be encouraged through the physical, emotional and spiritual care needed to truly heal. And, perhaps one of the most defining cornerstones of the healing process at New Life is the opportunity for girls to continue their education through the on-site Trinity Charter School. The teachers and staff at New Life and TCS work each and every day to build a foundation for girls to stand upon as they prepare for the bright futures they will live beyond treatment. This May, two seniors took their spots on the stage to graduate from TCS, yes, but also to reflect on their time spent at New Life – what they learned in the classroom and beyond and what they will take with them as they set out to achieve their dreams. Below is the graduation speech of one of those seniors.


This day I reflect on my true dedication to success. Today I am standing here a year early based on my determination to continue to improve my life no matter the circumstances.


When I first got into CPS, I remember telling my mom that I would end up getting behind in school and that I was just going to drop out since the placements I was being sent to had no schooling. I remember being angry at the world and on the verge of giving up on everything. Until one day, it hit me that what I am going through right now is not forever – that every setback is not negative. My setback has brought more good than it has bad. I jumped from placement after placement losing more and more hope throughout each move. I was wondering what I would do with my life now. Who am I going to run to now since everyone isn’t a tap away?


Before this happened, things were pretty normal. When CPS started, I was afraid of being alone and doing this all by myself. It was hard not having my mom to look up to anymore. It was hard to switch from making my own choices to being told when I can shower, when to use the bathroom, when to eat and when to sleep. But without getting a taste of what other worlds feel like and what the pain of others around you feels like to let me know that I’m not alone has shaped me into the person that I am today. It has made me realize that setbacks are not the end of the world. When you have so much time to yourself and you are away from all of the things that got you into trouble, you start to think. And when you start to think, you think of ways to change and become a better person. That is what I had to come to terms with.


I am thankful for everything that has happened to me this past year along with everything that I have learned along the way. I am thankful for all the teachers in my life that have wanted the best for me and wanted to see me grow, to use all my knowledge to make a change. I am thankful for my family and friends for staying true to me no matter the distance and not forgetting me. I am thankful for choosing to stop being against change and experiencing the other things that life has for me. I am thankful for deciding to stop being against help from others because without help I would have not made it this far.


Everything that happens always happens for a reason, and I couldn’t be more grateful for all the doors that have opened for me. When you truly decide to set your mind to something, beyond the sky becomes your limit. I learned to never let anyone, no matter how much they mean to me, get in the way of my success. People aren’t forever, but your goals are.


And last, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has gotten to know me and has been by my side to this very day. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.


National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Lyla’s Story

During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, it’s important to recognize those who have been personally affected. By listening to their stories, we can learn to notice the signs of abuse and neglect and help lift others out of suffering.


Lyla* grew up in a violent home where she endured physical abuse and was often left to fend for herself. One day, after witnessing her mother being beaten by her fiancé, Lyla decided that she had to flee for her own safety. She left home, took the family dogs with her and walked 16 miles to another town to seek help from a relative. It took her a whole day to walk the distance, but she was determined to get away.


For the first time in a long time, Lyla was finally safe, but the trauma she experienced had already taken its toll. Lyla was so used to being frightened and protecting herself that she reverted to some of the behaviors she’d resorted to while living in constant fear. She began lying, stealing and skipping school. She knew she was sabotaging her relationship with her new family, but figured they would end up leaving her no matter how well she behaved.


Past experiences convinced Lyla that no one would be there for her and that trauma would be an ever-present force in her life. Because of this, Lyla felt the need to arm herself with something sharp at all times in case she needed to defend herself. Having a weapon made her feel safe. Lyla needed help to sort through her painful memories and fear of looming threats. Thankfully New Life Children’s Center became her next home for a few crucial months.


While at New Life, Lyla received treatment for PTSD and Reactive Attachment Disorder. She learned that traumas from her past caused her to keep people at a distance because she assumed they would leave her. With some time, therapy, and care from the compassionate staff, Lyla started to learn more about herself. Her bruises started fading and her openness to let others into her life bloomed. She found joy in learning to cook and volunteering. Instead of skipping school and falling behind, Lyla attended class regularly and began achieving on grade level. Instead of hiding behind the scars of her past, Lyla now dreams about her future and is setting goals to make her dream of becoming a pilot a reality.


Stories like Lyla’s are more common than you might think. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, last year there were 41,120 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in Texas alone. If an adult in Lyla’s life had recognized some of the signs of abuse and neglect that she was displaying (running away, skipping school, bruises and abandonment), she might have been able to get help sooner. If you suspect a child is being abused, please report it to DFPS now by calling 1-800-252-5400 or by visiting the Texas Abuse Hotline Website.


*Lyla’s story is based on the real story of a child Upbring serves. While the story is true, identifying information has been altered to protect the child involved.

Mila Sketch

Mila Sketch: Creatively Connecting Art, Hope and Community

Our mission to break the cycle of child abuse takes a village, and working with our generous friends and community partners, Upbring is helping Texas children build brighter futures.

At our Red Ball gala in Austin, we had the privilege of partnering with Austin-based artist Mila Sketch, who created a painting that will inspire and encourage our girls at New Life Children’s Center for years to come.

Read More

The Mrs. – Inspiring Us All, One Song at a Time

“About to speak my mind. I won’t wait forever, and I won’t be last. Now I’m breaking through the ceiling made of glass. No need to ask. I’m enough, I’m enough, I’m enough, I’m enough.”- Enough by The Mrs.

When you think of the kind of champion you want in your corner as you work to break the cycle of child abuse – especially by empowering children and young women – I recommend The Mrs. They are four women using music to change the way other women see themselves: a top priority – as they inspire women to know that they are enough.

This message was performed for hundreds of Upbring’s friends who recently gathered at The Westin Austin at the Domain for the organization’s signature fundraising event, Upbring Red Ball. Since the Austin-based event supports Upbring Foster in Texas, New Life Children’s Center and BeREAL Austin, the band’s original songs served as a platform for more than just dancing the night away.

The Mrs. encouraged us to achieve our dreams in their hit Dare Me. The pop anthem Somewhere to Go reminded guests that they are never alone and they have someone to turn to when “the sky is fallin’ down.” These lyrics encouraged everyone in the room that night, so just imagine the impact on a girl living at New Life Children’s Center or in the Foster In Texas program! When I think about the positivity these artists are bringing into the world, I realize The Mrs. is made up of precisely the type of role models we hope to bring into the lives of those we serve.

Andra Liemandt founded The Mrs. after falling in love with drumming after her second daughter was born. More than just a band, The Mrs. has turned into a movement to help women see themselves in a positive light and ban negative self-talk. The band’s #IamEnough Campaign and “The Magic Mirror” recently gained national attention and sparked important conversations about the significance of self-acceptance and love.

Upbring was honored that The Mrs. chose to partner with us for Red Ball Austin.

Andra often partners with organizations in the community that are aligned with the band’s founding values. Most recently, Andra founded The Kindness Campaign on the belief that kindness is the key to changing the way children see themselves and how they relate to one another.

In an interview with Rockstar Magazine, the group offered these encouraging words to readers: “Never give up. Never let other people dictate your own story. You can absolutely achieve your dreams if you dare yourself.”

We want to thank The Mrs. for promoting their positive message and continuing to inspire us all.

About the Author

Jacie Minnick is a grant writer and member of the Upbring external relations team. Jacie recently relocated to Austin from Indiana, where she attended Hanover College (Go Panthers!). Off the clock, Jacie and her husband Jerry enjoy exploring all the things that make Austin unique, including dining at quirky restaurants, catching the latest highly acclaimed movie, and supporting the local Pug rescue mission.


A Heartfelt Message to Our Generous Friends

Kurt Senske has visited New Life Children’s Center hundreds of times during his 25 years as Upbring CEO. One day, a brave girl named Ava* approached him and asked who he was. When Kurt told Ava he leads the organization that operates New Life, she shared a story he will never forget.

Upbring Red Ball Platinum Partner Cut to Black created this 
short video
 explaining why they partner with us.

“She said that because of the therapy, life skills development opportunities and on-site education she got at New Life, she knew she would have a pretty good earthly life,” Kurt remembered.

“And because our spiritual care program taught her that her sins are forgiven, she also knew she would have an amazing eternal life.”

Ava’s story was just one of many beautiful stories of physical, emotional and spiritual healing told during Upbring Red Ball 2018. Because of the generous friends who supported our signature fundraising event, Upbring has the resources to provide care for more than 300 kids next year at New Life and in our Foster In Texas and BeREAL programs.

“We could not do what we do without you”

They are children like Jay and AJ, who didn’t always know where they would sleep or where their next meal would come from. The brothers were excited to come to Austin and go to a big party with their mom, Cheryl Lamaak, who partnered with Upbring to adopt them. Mostly, Cheryl said, the boys were excited to dance!

But before the music started, Cheryl delivered a heartfelt message to Red Ball guests.

“Your support helped me take the boys shopping for clothes when they came to live with me. They were so excited to pick out their own shoes for the first time,” Cheryl said. “I was also able to sign them up for karate, which has helped build their self-confidence. Those might seem like small things, but they make a tremendous impact in the lives of families who welcome children into their homes. We could not do what we do without you.”

Live art and live music

Russian-born Mila Sketch, described by her teachers as a child prodigy, earned her first art award at nine years old.

Red Ball guests had the chance to bid on trips, gift baskets and other items during live and silent auctions. The items were donated by generous congregations, businesses, families and individuals such as Austin artist Mila Sketch.

Mila was on-site creating a painting that she donated to New Life Children’s Center.

The evening closed with music by The Mrs. The Austin-based pock-rock group’s songs are powered by driving drum and bass lines.

But the heartbeat of each number lies in uplifting lyrics that promote a positive self-image among women.

In future blog posts, we will feature Mila Sketch and The Mrs. In the meantime, we thank you for showing Central Texas children we see them, we value them and we celebrate them.

We encourage you to visit our Flickr page and relive the fun from Upbring Red Ball 2018!

*Ava’s story is true, but we used a pseudonym to protect her identity.

Emily sent a personalized Christmas card to our generous donors

Harmony Learns to Forgive at New Life

Inspirational message at New Life RTC

Before they complete their treatment and take the next steps in their life journey, some girls leave inspirational messages for others who will call New Life home.

Harmony* started barrel racing as a child. She loved the competition and the peace she felt while riding. But mostly, Harmony loved long car rides, and talks, with her mother as they worked the racing circuit.

But when Harmony turned 10 years old, her mother met a man who introduced her to drugs. Read More


For These Golfers, Changing Lives is Par for the Course

The nearly 300 golfers who recently teed off during the annual Upbring Golf Austin and Houston tournaments were playing for more than birdies, pars and hole-in-ones. For these athletes, a few hours on the course offered a powerful way to change a child’s life.

The events raised a combined $113,000 for Upbring Foster In Texas (FIT), BeREAL, Krause Children’s Center and New Life Children’s Center.

“I was walking through the dormitories the other day, Read More


Running Toward a New Life

Running is more than a great way for kids to stay healthy. Physical activity also releases endorphins that help heal the nervous systems of children who have experienced trauma.

That is why the recreational therapy specialists at Upbring New Life Children’s Center started a running club. One of hundreds of girls who has found confidence through the running club is 17-year-old Anna.

Before she discovered a love for running, Anna brimmed with anger and animosity from painful emotional wounds caused by chronic childhood trauma.

Today, Anna smiles as she finds her stride and races toward the finish line. “I used to be focused on the past,” Anna said, “but now I am excited about my future.” And Anna sure does have some big dreams.

She plans to graduate from college, compete in the Olympics, and then become a doctor.

Running is an example of the recreational therapy activities that are part of New Life’s comprehensive treatment program. The program includes in-depth clinical therapy, spiritual care, preparation for adult living, and on-site education through our Trinity Charter School partnership.

The courageous young girls who call New Life home bring their own talents and dreams. It is our joy to give them a safe place to place to heal, grow and thrive.



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