You could certainly say that Christian Stiltner’s start to high school was a little more than unorthodox.
The recent Cambridge High graduate recently took a few minutes to reflect on those early days in and out of high school after graduating from high school in the local Buckeye School District in the town of Rayland in eastern Ohio. .
While most high school students worry about the classes they will take in first grade, Christian was more concerned about where he would take classes.
âWe have moved from state to state a lot,â Christian said. “I was in and out of schools and I was homeschooled sometimes. It was very difficult. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.”
The US Navy recruit said he attended schools in Florida, West Virginia and Ohio before coming to Cambridge High School for his sophomore year.
âWe were always in and out of schools. In and out of homeschooling,â Christian said. “You go to a place and then you break out and really make yourself feel like you’re not a normal person.”
Christian’s family life was difficult from an early age.
At age 7 he was separated from two brothers and later in his early teens he was separated from his sister, who remained with her biological family.
Being removed from his family and placed with a foster family would ultimately be quite beneficial for Christian, but not at first.
âI was unhappy,â Christian said. âBeing alone in foster care, you go through a lot of pain. It doesn’t make you feel like a human being. You are not part of the ordinary world and you feel rather useless.
âI never felt like I was going to succeed. You look around and see so many children like you struggling. Meanwhile, other children are succeeding and moving forward, and that’s a very sad feeling. You feel lost and like there is no point in trying. “
But that changed with his placement with the Zanesville-based Journey Home Foster Care & Adoption agency, but not right away; which led to a home in Cambridge and a future.
Christian was first placed with Tracy Dinkins in Cambridge and then moved into the home of Tom Wood and Melissa Quilla.
âYou’re kind of stepping out of society. You’re with a different group of people – foster kids,â Christian said of those early days in the system. “You go to bed every night thinking I’m one of ‘those’ kids. It’s traumatic.”
Christian said he struggled to make friends at first, but that eventually changed and friends helped change his outlook on life.
âWhen you make friends, you start to get back to normal,â he said.
As Christian continued to make friends and worked during the summer at the Guernsey County Community Development Corporation, YMCA, Ridge Tool, and Salt Fork State Park, things continued to improve for him.
It was during his junior and senior years that Christian found a focal point. He started to think more about graduation.
âIt can give you the motivation to do anything,â he said. “You go through all of these things and you see that you can do good. You can be a part of society. It’s a great motivation.”
A future in the US Marine Corps also became a motivation for Christian.
âI have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than me,â he said. âIt’s a great calling. All my life nothing has been meaningful, but it’s something I can do in life and it’s a path for my future.
“It will give me many opportunities. I can be a leader. I can develop skills that I have never learned. This is a huge opportunity for me,” added Christian, who left for the basic training of USMC at Parris Island on June 2.
Yet obtaining his degree was one of the greatest achievements of Christian’s life.
Christian attributes his success of the past three years to Journey House, staff members Ted Murphy and Charity Wheeler, and his adoptive parents.
âI wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of Journey House,â he said. âI probably wouldn’t be in Cambridge and might still be moving from state to state. I couldn’t have done all of this on my own.
“I wouldn’t be in the position I am in without them,” Christian added of his adoptive parents. “They kept me from making bigger mistakes.”
While serving in the Marine Corps, Christian plans to go to college for social work. His college of choice is Ohio State University.