Former Sanctuary on 8th Street student has bright future ahead

Former Sanctuary on 8th Street student has bright future ahead
Sanctuary on 8th Street Executive Director Rick Cartlidge with former Sanctuary student Ky-mani Bell during a recent trip home to visit his family for Christmas. The Sanctuary facilitated Bell’s admission to Boys Town and sponsors his flights home for a week each summer and Christmas to visit his family in Jacksonville.

Once a struggling student, a Jacksonville youth, who was helped by a local program for at-risk kids, is now on the path to success.

Seventeen-year-old Ky-mani Bell was just seven years old when he began attending the after-school program at Springfield’s Sanctuary on 8th Street. Later, he was enrolled in the Sanctuary’s homeschool program.

“I pretty much grew up around Sanctuary,” Bell said. “They helped me a lot.”

That help included facilitating Bell’s admission to Boys Town, an organization in Omaha, Nebraska, where students live on site and attend school. The mission of Boys Town is to provide guidance to students with behavioral, emotional or academic issues.

Sanctuary on 8th Street’s Executive Director Rick Cartlidge heard about Boys Town when he was coaching basketball at the Police Athletic League.

Bell came to Cartlidge’s mind when he heard a Boys Town representative address coaches at PAL. Because the young man came from an impoverished family, Cartlidge felt Bell might benefit from being able to focus solely on himself and his studies at Boys Town.

“I played for Mr. Rick’s basketball team, and he heard about [Boys Town] at a basketball meeting,” Bell said. “He told me about it and I said I wanted to go.”

That was in 2012 when Bell was just entering freshman year in high school.

“All kids are special, but Ky-mani just has something about him,” Cartlidge said. “I felt that he would be willing to take this kind of leap.”

Not only has Bell met every expectation put forth to him by Boys Town, he’s thrived.

Keeping up with his love for sports, Bell plays on the Boys Town High School football and basketball teams. He excels in track and made it to the 2016 state championships for long jump.

He also maintains a 3.5 GPA.

In 2016, Bell was elected vice mayor of The Village of Boys Town. The self-governing town has its own police and fire departments, schools, churches, post office and ball fields. 

He’s also become a leader at the school. He’s been an assistant family teacher for the past two years in the home he shares with eight other students and a set of house parents. When new students come to the house, they look to Bell to lead.

“At Boys Town, it’s like the family environment where we live in different homes with a couple,” Bell said.

The married couple, Aaron and Kendal Robertson, who live with the boys, serve as Boys Town Family-Teachers. They update Cartlidge about once a month on Bell’s progress.

“[I] always have great things to hear from Mr. and Mrs. Robertson,” Cartlidge said.

Each summer, Bell has held a summer job at the Village of Boys Town. He’s worked on the farm and the fire station. And every summer and Christmas, the Sanctuary pays to fly Bell home to visit his family in Jacksonville.

“From my knowledge, a lot of kids move in and out of the program,” Cartlidge said. “He’s one of the rare breeds who have been there day one from freshman year to senior.”

Bell will be graduating high school this May. He’s been offered a football scholar-
ship to Midland College in Texas, Doane University in Nebraska, and South Dakota University. He plans to study sports management.

By Carrie Resch
Resident Community News

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