Al Schulz, an Abbott House alum, stayed at Abbott House as a young boy. Today, his son and daughter-in-law, Tyson and Lisa Schulz both work at the Abbott House. Tyson has worked at the Abbott House for 14 years and now serves as the Director of Abbott House Bridges program. Lisa has worked at the Abbott House as a family teacher. Tristen Ackman, Al’s daughter, also worked at the Abbott House for a period of time prior to her graduation from Dakota Wesleyan University.
Al grew up in the Mount Vernon area with his parents and his aunt and uncle. “I came to the Abbott House when I was in third grade because my family was struggling to provide for me. To me the Abbott House was a place to be when my parents could no longer give me what I needed. It was a safe environment where I learned responsibility.”
“My situation is quite different from what other children experience,” Al said. “I always felt my parents loved me and I was never abused. They just were not able to physically and mentally provide for me.”
Abbott House provided a stable home environment for Al and gave him a feeling of responsibility in the daily activities for which residents were responsible. “I’m not sure what would have happened if I couldn’t have come to the Abbott House,” Al said. “One thing is for sure, I think back many days about my experience there and a man by the name of Mr. Pickering and the important life lessons he taught me.”
Al’s aunt and uncle, Ed and Alwina Brech, were sponsors at his baptism and as a result found themselves feeling somewhat responsible for his well-being after his parents could no longer take care of him. They eventually took Al into their family in Mount Vernon. Al participated in football, choir, industrial arts and theatre, and successfully graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 1964. “I lived with my aunt and uncle and cousins for nearly 20 years, so they are just like family to me,” Al said.
After high school, Al attended Southern State Teachers College, where he pursued an education degree in industrial arts. After college graduation, he taught industrial arts in Roscoe and Mount Vernon, SD. Eventually he pursued a master’s degree in educational administration. He became the secondary principal at Mount Vernon for the next 26 years, working for a total of 32 years in the Mount Vernon School District.
Whenever Al had to deal with children in the educational system, he always thought about his days at Abbott House. Many times when teachers were complaining about a “problem child” in the classroom, Al said he would ask them to take a step back for a moment. “That child whom they were having a problem with; the best part of their day might be what they were experiencing at school and in the classroom. Be kind and gentle if you can,” he said. Thinking about these situations, still brings tears to Al’s eyes.
Today, Al and his wife, Donna, have been married for 48 years. In addition to their children, Tyson and Tristen, they also have six grandchildren – one granddaughter and five grandsons.
“If a child is lucky enough to arrive at Abbott House and receive the positive experience that I did, then the time that the staff puts in and donations that Abbott House receives will be time and money well spent,” Al said. “The impact Abbott House has can only become more personal if that Abbott House resident happens to be you.”