When Shaylor Leyk was 11, she didn’t go to school much. She and her drug-addicted mother bounced from location to location in Vancouver, Washington, and Leyk was frequently left alone for days or weeks at a time without food and without knowing where her mother was.
One day she’d had enough. She wanted to go to school. She wanted to learn. So she went to the police station and asked for help. By the end of the day she was in the foster care system.
Leyk said she received the best of the foster care system. She got the help she needed to get caught up in school. She lived with only three long-term families until landing with Jessica Schultz-Leyk and her husband, Josh Leyk, just after her 15th birthday. On her 16th birthday, the couple adopted her.
Schultz-Leyk said she and her husband became foster parents with the intention of adopting a teenager. “That was always our goal,” she said. “We were just better suited for an older child.”
Now Leyk is graduating from East Valley High School with a 3.79 GPA and participates in Future Business Leaders of America, runs cross country and is on the track team. She also volunteers at River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, a haven for farm animals as well as dogs and cats.
Until age 11, Leyk and her mother lived with her maternal grandparents. Her mother would come and go, so it was her grandparents who raised her.
“Then they both got sick and had to go into assisted living,” Leyk said.
That meant Leyk and her mother were on their own – and it did not go well. Leyk said she isn’t angry at her mother anymore.
“I was mad for a long time,” she said. “I just realized she wasn’t ready to have children. I don’t blame her, but I hope she could see how well I’ve turned out.”
Efforts have been made to find her mother, but it has proved difficult.
Schultz-Leyk said she is impressed at Leyk’s resiliency and how eager she is to learn. “She’s exceeded all of our expectations,” she said. “She’s just been a delight for the last three years.”
Her adoptive parents had to push her to do her homework at first, but she soon had it figured out. “She’s turned out to be a responsible young adult,” said Schultz-Leyk. “She’s more than the sum of her experiences. Even if she had a conventional upbringing, she would still be special.”
Leyk plans to attend Eastern Washington University in the fall and study pre-nursing. Nursing includes something new every day and Leyk said it will be an adventure.
Hopefully this adventure will go more smoothly than her last, a two-month backpacking trip last summer that included her sliding 100 feet down a glacier in Olympic National Park after her foot slipped. Leyk wasn’t seriously injured and returned to the trip after a week, even tackling another glacier trek.
“I like adventure,” she said. “It pushes you. It tests your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength.”