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Heartlight Student Experience

Through a weaving together of activities, counseling, teaching, group sessions, personal relationships, and involvement from parents, the Heartlight Boarding School has become trusted for its ability to create lasting change in the lives of teens.

Committed to Excellence, Driven by Relationships

When unhealthy patterns of dealing with life issues are present (lying, selfishness, deceitfulness, manipulation, entitlement, depression, lack of motivation, disrespect for authority, confusion, etc.), Heartlight Boarding School offers a safe and encouraging short-term living environment specifically designed to bring about a change in the teenager’s thinking and actions.

Our philosophy entails a biblical counseling approach with five levels of achievement. Each teen is involved in activities that offer support through individual and group counseling and 24/7 mentoring. Each staff member understands the security and significance we all seek can be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who desires to fill the empty chasms of life and give meaning, purpose, and direction to our life.

About Heartlight

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Identifying Issues and Implementing Change

Each Heartlight Boarding School resident meets weekly with a designated counselor who utilizes a biblical model of counseling. Each full-time, on-site counselor is responsible for the emotional care of approximately 10–15 students.

Counselors lead two group sessions and an individual counseling session with the student each week. They are intricately involved in the lives of the young people counseled, as well as with the parents, becoming the “point of contact” for each family.

Individualized and self-paced learning for each teen

Heartlight’s accredited school utilizes a unique setting where individual attention and instruction guarantees academic progress and growth. Each of our 5 teachers hold a master’s degree in their area of expertise, and are versed on each child’s educational needs.

Individual attention is given to each student to encourage successful academic progress, measured through weekly performance goals. Residents attend class five days a week and are given the opportunity to attend evening classes should they desire to “catch up” or “get ahead” in their curriculum.

Accredited by Cognia (formally AdvancED), the academics at Heartlight involves online learning coupled with individual instruction from educators that love teaching and have a genuine desire to see their students excel and succeed.

A Life-on-Life Relational Approach

It cannot be emphasized enough that the success of the Heartlight Boarding School program lies in the coordinated team effort made by the staff. Together, they provide an atmosphere of serious pursuit in resolving teen problems, while saturating each teen resident with personal relationships.

Providing An Activity Rich Daily Life

The programmed activity time fills the hours when residents are not in school or going to counseling sessions and meetings. Our program staff ensure schedules are filled with plenty of outdoor activity and make sure residents don’t get bored in the process.

Campus Life

Heartlight Campus Overview

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Meet The Heartlight Team

Mark & Jan Gregston

Founders

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Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He and his wife Jan founded Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teams and families in crisis. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast, heard on over 1,800 radio outlets throughout North America.

Kim Weed

Title Coming Soon!

Bio Coming Soon!

Blake Nelson

Executive Director

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Blake is a native of East Texas and has been a part of the Heartlight team for almost 30 years. Blake is licensed in Texas as Childcare Administrator. Blake’s no-nonsense approach and his passion for helping struggling teens and their families has made him a great asset to the Heartlight community. Blake has been married for over 25 years to Melissa Nelson, the Admissions Director, and has two daughters and 3 dogs. Blake enjoys spending time in the outdoors bow hunting, golf, fishing, and various activities, when not spending time with family or at Heartlight.

Layne Smith

Director of Counseling

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Layne graduated from The University of Texas at Tyler with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in clinical mental health counseling. She found Heartlight upon her graduation in 2018 and quickly moved into the role of Director of Counseling. Layne loves kids of all ages and provides a beautiful example of what our life-on-life ministry style looks like. She maintains tough love but is highly encouraging and optimistic in style. She lives in Longview with her husband & their two daughters. In her free time, she enjoys taking her girls to the park & playing fetch with her dogs. Layne brings a sense of peace and calm energy to all that she does and is seen as steadfast as well as reliable in all of her ways.

Ben Weinert

Assistant Director

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Ben is a dedicated member of Heartlight Ministries and has been for the past 20 years. Ben is a licensed Childcare Administrator with a degree in Christian ministries and theater from George Fox University. He brings an energetic and fun-filled spirit to our team, contributing to the vibrant atmosphere at Heartlight. Ben is a devoted family man, married with three children, and his passion for the ministry shines through in his work. He loves every moment of his journey at Heartlight, striving to make a positive impact in the lives of those we serve.

Brooke Lane

Assistant Director

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Brooke has been a valuable part of our Heartlight family since 2016. Brooke is the go-to person when it comes to helping young people and families in need. She has a background in psychology from her time at Southeastern University. With her knowledge and passion, Brooke has been a significant part of our ministry for the past seven years. In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing sports, and hanging out with friends.

Melissa Fulling

Counseling Staff

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Melissa completed her master’s program at the University of Puget Sound in 2013 and has worked with struggling kids and families in a variety of settings for over a decade. After her graduate program, she worked primarily with a community mental health center and focused on counseling with kids in the school and clinic settings including work with trauma victims at a children’s advocacy center. Before coming to Heartlight, Melissa worked with troubled teens in a long-term inpatient program. She has been passionate about helping others through counseling since she was nominated in high school as a “Natural Helper” (peer counselor) and recognized how fulfilling service to others can be. Melissa and her husband moved to East Texas in 2021 and have never felt so at home.

Courtney Lafleur

Counseling Staff

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Courtney is an East Texas native from Mineola. She studied at Southern Arkansas University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in clinical counseling and mental health. Courtney worked in a variety of settings before coming to Heartlight, including state clinics, university counseling centers, and children’s behavioral health. Courtney has become an asset to Heartlight and her wisdom goes far beyond her age. She lives in Longview with her husband, David, and their dogs, Remi and Sunday. She spends her free time traveling to meet up with family, watching sports with friends, and going to the movies.

Elissa Raich

Counseling Staff

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Elissa is originally from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. She went to college in San Diego, California where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Point Loma Nazarene University. After college, Elissa moved back to Dallas and received her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from The Kings University. Elissa brings a lightheartedness that is full of grace and compassion. She shows her love through her actions, and it’s easy to see that her heart is for Christ. In her free time, Elissa enjoys spending time outside, hiking, playing board games, and spending time with friends and family.

Haylie Hill

Counseling Staff

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Haylie grew up in Livermore, CA, and made the transition to Texas to become one of our counselors in 2023. Haylie graduated her undergrad with a Bachelor of Arts in child and adolescent development from San Jose State University and her Master of Science in clinical mental health counseling from Grand Canyon University. Haylie loves to bake, read books, go hiking, garden, and hang out with her two dogs and two cats. She is always willing to give a helping hand and jump into any situation. She has a passion for counseling youth and it’s evident to see when you watch her interactions with the kids.

Heidi Friedel

Residential Director

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After growing up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Heidi attended Liberty University in Virginia to study family and child development and psychology. Heidi has had years of experience working with youth and their families as she worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor, as a club president for Best Buddies International, and as a therapeutic mentor. With her positive and easy-going spirit, Heidi strives to be a light to girls who are struggling through adolescence and a light to our staff, supporting our campus with her engaging personality. She loves to spend her free time playing pickleball, going to the beach, thrifting, hiking, swimming, and going on adventures like traveling to Australia!

Brandon Diaz Matthews

Residential Director

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Brandon grew up in Orlando, Florida before moving to Dallas, Texas, and discovering Heartlight. He attended Seminole State College and then the University of Central Florida studying psychology and entrepreneurship. Brandon has been in the education field for the past nine years working mostly as a behavioral analyst and a program assistant. Some of his hobbies include off-roading, E-Sports, riding his jet ski, and has recently found an interest in creating content and hopes to use that to one day create a brand that motivates and inspires teens and young adults.

Adina Rosenlieb

Residential Director

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Known for her Ohio pride, Adina grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and studied psychology with a counseling focus at Ohio Christian University. Before her time at Heartlight, Adina had years of experience working with teens at multiple Christian summer camps, working with inner-city kids, working as a residential assistant, and more. She has also had the chance to travel to Spain and Japan for mission trips. Adina brings so much energy to our campus and loves engaging the kids in sports and competitions! She spends her free time working out, playing guitar, traveling, and hanging out with friends.

Sarah Hickerson

Recruitment Director

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Originally from Dallas, Sarah came to us straight from college after receiving her degree from Harding University. Sarah has years of experience working with kids and teens serving as a volunteer and youth intern while she studied broadcast journalism as well as leadership and ministry in college. Sarah is truly a light on our campus and has never met a stranger. She brings energy and positivity to whatever she is a part of. Sarah jumps headfirst into any activity if it means building relationships with our kids. She especially loves playing sports, hiking, and watching football. Her goal when arriving at Heartlight was to serve the Lord and make our kids feel truly comfortable and accepted for being themselves.

Luke Walls

Residential House Director

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Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Luke graduated from Concord University in West Virginia where he studied elementary education. While in college, Luke played collegiate football, worked as a resident’s assistant, a youth sports referee, worked at a rock-climbing gym, and more, and always found himself loving any chance he had to work with kids. He brings a fun-loving, goofy, and positive spirit wherever he goes and says that when he saw the opportunity to work with kids in such a direct and unique way, he couldn’t pass it up!

Austin Morgan

Residential House Director

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Austin is an Ohio native with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Kent State University. He enjoys exploring the variety of human experiences by engaging with individuals and understanding their stories. He also believes that it’s part of his responsibility to help raise the next generation and equip them to surpass his own; working at Heartlight enables him to do both. When Austin isn’t working, he is hanging out with friends, reading, or looking for cool places to eat.

Alaki Smith

Residential House Director

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Alaki grew up in Lexington, Kentucky before coming to East Texas. She has tons of personal experience working with children as a babysitter, working at a daycare, and being a teacher’s assistant for special needs classes in High school. Alaki’s relational personality makes her a great asset at Heartlight. She has found the balance between creating deep relationships with teens and setting structure and consistency within the house she oversees. She has a heart to help with mental health and is currently working on her psychology degree in the hopes of becoming a counselor.

Taylor Kusch

Residential House Director

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The most competitive guy around, Taylor, came to us from Long Beach, California. Taylor majored in Criminal Justice at Azuza Pacific University. Taylor’s fun personality allows him to easily connect with the residents and have those deeper conversations. Before Heartlight, Taylor worked in facilities at his home church in California. He’s passionate about sports, any type of animal, and hanging out with his friends and family. Taylor has always had a heart for youth and wants to make an impact on those around him while serving the Lord at the same time.

Regan Wills

Residential House Director

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Regan comes from Southaven, Mississippi, and has always had a heart and passion for working with young people. Before working at Heartlight, Regan was a vulnerable populations coordinator after graduating from Mississippi State University in criminology. She enjoys walking in nature, playing with animals, and spending quality time with friends. Regan’s ambitious, empathetic, fun personality has been an asset for us here! She comes with a determination in the world to make a difference, even if it’s only for one kid.

Katerine Evermon

Residential House Director

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Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Katerin attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX where she studied international business with a double minor in Spanish and Christian studies. Before Heartlight, Katerin worked with an organization that reunited unaccompanied minors with their families in the states. She has a deep heart for kids and has always wanted to make a difference and show the love of Christ to those around her. She loves watching movies, hanging out with her friends, playing soccer, and learning about other cultures. Katerin brings a playful spirit to the table while showing empathy to the kids in her house. She feels deeply for those she serves, which allows her to be very impactful in her approach to teenagers.

Alex Loper

Residential House Director

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Originally from Alto, Texas, Alex attended Stephan F. Austin State University and received her degree in human services with a focus in human development and family studies. Alex spent time working in administration for an outdoor science school program for 5th graders in Huntsville, TX before joining us in East Texas. Alex has a fun, adventurous personality and she loves to travel, go hiking, and play ultimate frisbee. Alex’s goal while being at Heartlight is to provide grace to those around her and be a support for those who need it. Her sense of humor makes her unique on campus and is wonderful when we need a new perspective in any given situation.

Austin Downs

Residential Staff

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Years ago, Austin had the unique experience of going through and graduating from our program as a resident himself. When Heartlight impacted his own life in such a massive way, he instantly knew he wanted to return as a staff member one day. He says, “Some of the most impactful and life-altering conversations I had were with my house staff, and if someone was willing to give up a year of their life to try and save mine, I owed it to the next kid to come back and try to do that for them.” An Eagle Scout, Austin joined us again from Los Angeles, California where he grew up fishing, skateboarding, building cars, camping, off-roading, scuba diving, video games, and much more.

Mark Corrigan

Residential Staff

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Growing up in Seattle, Washington, Mark has traveled overseas and lived around the world. He studied ministry at Hillsong College in Sydney, Australia then moved to Norwich in the UK to do youth work and ministry. Next to traveling, some of Mark’s interests include sports, writing, and coffee! Mark’s desire to work with youth has been fueled by his family environment. He wants the chance to share his life experiences with the next generation. Mark’s thoughtful, fun, and relaxed personality brings excitement and drive to his daily life.

Lauren Martin

Residential Staff

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Coming from Kingsburg, California, Lauren (known as Lo around campus) joined our team at Heartlight after hearing about us from a past Heartlight employee. She studied sociology with an emphasis in social work at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. Lo has spent time working in children’s ministry, respite care, and a non-profit Christian kid’s camp. Right before starting at Heartlight, she traveled to New Zealand doing mission work to spread the gospel to unbelievers. Growing up in a difficult situation, she has a heart to provide a helping hand to those who have dealt with similar situations. She loves to sing, swim, hammock, and play video games. She shows constant love and compassion to those around her and strives to always have a mindset of understanding.

Allisson Ratliff

Residential Staff

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Allison, affectionately known as Ally, was working as a preschool teacher and behavioral therapist before starting with Heartlight. She studied early childhood education and applied behavior analysis at Arizona Western College. Ally has great experience with kids as she has worked with kids on the autism spectrum, tutored middle schoolers, and taught preschool for over 5 years. Ally brings a smile to anyone around her and is constantly trying to make an impact on teens by offering them unconditional love, support, and encouragement. She loves to read, exercise, listen to music, and explore the outdoors.

Jerrod Reeves

Residential Staff

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Jerrod came to us from Lindale, Texas. Jerrod studied psychology at the University of Texas at Tyler and knew he wanted to make a difference. He felt called to help guide the younger generations off the wrong path in life and help them navigate the world we see today. Whether it is trash runs, moving furniture, or helping de-escalate a situation between two teens, Jerrod is always willing to step up and help with whatever is going on. He loves watching teens change the family dynamic and reunify with their families. In his free time, Jerrod loves going to the gym, playing sports, and taking walks.

Keelin Munoz

Residential Staff

Full Bio

Keelin was born and raised right here in East Texas, growing up in White Oak. Keelin has had a heart for youth for a long time and was previously a youth leader at a small congregation in his hometown. He is currently working on his associate in counseling at Kilgore College in hopes of becoming a licensed counselor. Keelin’s “go with the flow” personality has allowed him to not only connect with the kids, but other staff. He provides a listening ear to anyone who needs it and wants to show the kids that they are loved, no matter the decisions they have made. Keelin says he’s just an “ordinary person serving an extraordinary God.”

JC Wilkin

Residential Staff

Full Bio

Growing up on a farm, JC comes from the small town of Cisca, Illinois. JC graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelor’s in psychology and immediately started working at Heartlight. His easy-going nature allows him to connect with the boys and develop deep relationships. JC has a passion for helping those struggling with mental health issues and wants to be there for those who aren’t able to help themselves. He loves music, horseback riding, video games, and reading. JC keeps it cool and lighthearted and can always crack a joke even when circumstances might seem tense.

Eden Andre

Residential Staff

Full Bio

From Macon, Georgia, Eden will light up a room with her smile. Eden majored in criminal justice at Georgia College in Milledgeville and went to work as a behavioral specialist. She desired the opportunity to work with an organization that centered around God, thus she discovered Heartlight. Eden loves photography, roller-skating, and hanging out with friends. She has a talent to make the girls feel valued and heard when they live with her in-house. She is very outgoing and energetic and will always be down to go on an adventure.

Lilly Giovino

Residential Staff

Full Bio

Coming to us from Denton, Texas, Lilly has been a great addition to our Heartlight Family. Lilly has always loved volunteering for her church through VBS, mission trips, and other activities where she was able to interact with the youth group. She believes that coming to Heartlight has given her a chance to start a career in ministry full-time. Lilly’s life experiences allow her to connect with the kids and truly understand where they might be coming from. She has an excellent work ethic and strives to be the best example she can be for those around her.

Maegan Witte

Residential Staff

Full Bio

Maegan came to us from Waco, Texas with a servant’s heart. Maegan’s passion has always been to make a direct impact on the lives of kids. Before joining our team at Heartlight, Maegan was a special education aide at Waco ISD but knew the Lord was calling her to something more. At Heartlight, our goal is always to “be the person you needed when you were younger” and that’s exactly what Maegan strives to live by. Maegan has worked with kids not only in the school system but also at summer camps and after-school programs. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and playing tennis.

Jane Fidler

Tutor

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Originally from East Aurora, New York, Jane attended the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she earned a B.A. in secondary English and a master’s degree in reading. With a wealth of experience spanning twelve years in both New York and Texas public schools, Jane joined Heartlight in 2002, a role she adores. Jane is the kind of teacher students always remember. Her warmth, humor, and knack for encouraging others make her stand out. Jane is a teacher who leaves a lasting impression and creates a positive learning environment for all.

Faith Crawford

Tutor

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Meet Faith, our math tutor, whose roots trace back to Deer Park, Texas. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and physical education from Stephen F. Austin State University, Faith brings a practical and dynamic approach to mathematics. She possesses a unique way of simplifying complex math concepts. With Faith, students discover that math isn’t just about numbers; it’s about unlocking new possibilities and building confidence to achieve and accomplish more understanding of math.

Scott Harclerode

Tutor

Full Bio

Scott is from Longview, Texas, and attended the University of Houston where he received a BS degree in electronics and control. He furthered his education by attending the University of Kansas and Rice University where he received his MEE degree in electrical engineering. He’s semi-retired and is an adjunct professor of physics at Le Tourneau University in Longview, Texas. He has been tutoring and involved in public education for over 20 years. He brings a little bit of “age” and a “whole lot of wisdom”.

Kathleen Herman

Tutor

Full Bio

Originally from Springfield, Missouri, Kathleen is a tutor known for her remarkable kindness and sweet disposition. Obtaining her bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She is well-versed in history and eager to share her passion for the subject with her students. Kathleen’s warm and empathetic nature creates a supportive learning environment and makes history lessons not only educational but also enjoyable. Her commitment to helping students understand and appreciate the complexities of the past is matched only by her dedication to their success.

Keila Reyes

Academic Director

Full Bio

Keila was born and raised in Tamaulipas, Mexico before her family moved to Hallsville, Texas, where she spent the rest of her childhood. She attended East Texas Baptist University, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in music and worship studies. In addition to music, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching movies, reading, and shopping. Before Heartlight, Keila had experience working at youth camps and youth retreats and has spent the majority of her life playing music and singing at her home church. Keila has worked at Heartlight for the last few years and plays a crucial role in the development and growth of the kids. In the future, Keila plans to get married and start a family.

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