Gary Priour, Founder of Hill Country Youth Ranch in Ingram, Texas, graduated from Harvard University, cum laude, in 1969 with a major in English Literature. He received a Masters Degree in the same field at Portland State University in 1971. He taught high school and college English and literature before devoting himself full-time as a single parent to the care of his 2-year-old son. His involvement with abused and abandoned children began in 1972 when, at his daycare center in Portland, Oregon, a mother left a 2-year-old girl for whom she did not return. He has been involved with the care of such children ever since.
Priour has participated in the evolution of the Texas child care system since founding and opening Hill Country Youth Ranch in 1977. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Texas Association of Licensed Children’s Services, been State Chairman of the Residential Treatment Section of TALCS, served as President of the Texas Alliance for Children, and worked on two state task forces whose goal was to revamp the service delivery system for at-risk children and families in Texas. Priour has overseen the design and operation of a “continuum of care” that provides a broad array of residential and educational settings and services for children and youth of all ages and need levels. He has supervised the building of four charter school campuses, two medical/psychiatric assessment centers, three “small-town” villages in rural and ranch settings, and apartment complexes for young adult graduates of the foster care system. These facilities operate interconnectedly as a continuum to offer a variety of life-enhancing communities and programs, each promoting the healing and education of abused and homeless children and young adults, ages 5 – 24.
The constant goal of this continuum is to find the best possible setting for each child, teen, or young adult, where individual needs for healing and learning can be met at each stage of growth, while allowing him or her to remain in the same family of caregivers and mentors as he or she matures and enters adulthood. Priour’s idea of family is that it extends throughout life, and the more than 2100 alumni of the HCYR programs can attest to that. All are welcome to return to one of the numerous alumni guest houses at any time, apply for educational grants regardless of age, and also receive emergency aid in a time of crisis. The Alumni Association is an active community for Ranch graduates, exchanging support and advice to alumni of all ages.