By Brenda Cannon Henley
It does the heart good to see good things happen to really good people. The past few weeks have brought many wonderful tributes to a hard working and truly dedicated young lady, Valerie Clara Sallee, from High Island, Texas. The road to Valerie’s success has not necessarily been an easy one. She has faced challenges and struggles, and overcome them, one by one, to make not only her dad proud of her accomplishments, but the entire community she now calls home and her old friends, as well.
Valerie has been a student at High Island High School on the Bolivar Peninsula for her junior and senior years moving from an area near Katy, Texas, where her father was instrumental in starting a church.The family is originally from Kansas. Valerie and her younger sister, Natalie, visited the Bolivar Peninsula as part of a volunteer work group following Hurricane Ike. Valerie fell in love with the area, the people, and their effort in rebuilding after the devastation left by the monster storm. “I was simply overwhelmed at the amount of work to be done in the area,” Valerie said. Returning home to her father, she said, “I think I’ve found the place you should minister, and I believe God wants us to work in High Island, Texas.” In subsequent weeks, Richard Sallee and his girls returned to High Island, met with the leaders of First Baptist Church of High Island, and Pastor Sallee began to feel as insightful daughter did. He became burdened for the people and the area and after several meetings with those in leadership positions, he accepted the call to become senior pastor of the small church.
Richard Sallee is credited for creating a nurturing and loving home in the absence of his wife and the girls’ mom who died of cancer some four years ago. Valerie stepped up to the plate in the home to help her busy dad in caring for her sister, the household, and in duties in the church. When the Sallees arrived, there was no formal youth program and the two Sallee daughters had been very active in their former church with the other young people. “Dad, I’m just not sure I can make it without a strong youth group,” said Valerie. “What will we do?”
Pastor Sallee suggested to his oldest daughter that perhaps God was speaking to her to help lead in the establishment of a new youth program following Hurricane Ike. Valerie says she prayed about the matter, researched all of the information available to her, and set out to help other teens in the area. “When we first started, we might have four people show up, and sometimes, even those we counted on could not attend for some reason. I would be disappointed and ask God to help us more. God answered our prayers, and we saw the program reach 20 attending on Wednesday nights. I was excited.”
The youth program under Valerie’s and the pastor’s direction now has some 30 to 40 involved young people and have seen some very special goals met and even exceeded. Valerie said that at least 20 young people have made meaningful decisions for the Lord in this group and she feels that helping these kids through turbulent times has been her most victorious accomplishment.With graduation approaching very quickly, Valerie knew that if she were to attend college, she and her dad had to have some help, so she began to pray fervently and ask God to direct her toward any scholarships that might be available. She wanted to attend Criswell in the Dallas area, a highly recognized university with about 500 students. Valerie’s humble prayers were heard and after serving as the senior class secretary, a member of the National Honor Society, and a member of the student council of her school, the vibrant teen began to receive word of answers to her prayers.
Before graduation night had ended at High Island, Valerie was the recipient of enough scholarship money to attend the college of her choice and not have to be on pins and needles for the first year anyway about money for tuition, housing, and books. God had answered marvelously and just in time, a lesson we can learn from the life of Corrie ten Boom.
Among Valerie’s scholarships are: 1. The Jacob Kent Memorial Scholarship – $2,000, 2. Junior Women’s League Scholarship – $1,000, 3. Galveston News Scholarship – $500, 4. The Haley Bickham Memorial Scholarship – $1,000, 5. Cameron Communications Leadership Scholarship – $250, 6. The Norman And Patsy Rollins Memorial Scholarship – $150, 7. Crystal Beach Fishing Club Scholarship – $1,000, 8. Bolivar Peninsula Ministers Alliance Scholarship – $1,000, 9. Cardinal Club Scholarship – $2,400, 10. The Rice Fest Scholarship – $3,000.
Valerie and her father seem a bit overwhelmed at the abundant blessing the family has received from a community that took them in with open arms, welcomed them to the area, and have joined them in mutual gratitude and service. I can’t help but believe her mom is smiling down from Heaven joining the family in the outstanding accomplishments of a very special young lady. In a recent telephone conversation, the typical teen said she was really looking forward to college for many reasons, and one being, that she could talk on the phone later than she could at home without worrying her dad. As quickly as she made that admission, she added, “But I sure am going to miss that good man.”
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.