Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Helping kids overcome hurdles and achieve success. That's what it's all about.

Today has been one of those really satisfying days, a day in which you feel good about your work on the behalf of young people. I had the opportunity to attend end-of-year celebrations at our Learning Alternatives Community School (LACS) and at our Life Skills program.

There are many of our students who I define as school-independent learners. While our work with these students is vital, and I believe we make a difference for these kids by enhancing their learning and preparing them to excel in their future, they largely have a support network and personal skills in place that they would be successful in almost any school setting.

There are many other students who I define as school-dependent learners. For a variety of reasons, these students really count on the school, and the systems of support provided by the school, to be successful. Many of them, as a result of personal choices or life circumstance, have been faced with signficant hurdles in their lives. Thus, it is so gratifying to see these young adults celebrate their successes and significant milestones.

The Learning Alternatives Community School held their Learner Celebration today. LACS is for learners between the ages of 12 and 21 who are seeking success in an alternative setting, with individualized, learner-directed, and flexible instruction

It was exciting to see this diverse group of proud students from a wide variety of backgrounds celebrate their successes. There were a few comments from students that really struck me.

Two students stood up to recognize the efforts of their teachers, a group of teachers who demonstrate a commitment to their learners each day through their willingness to learn and try new things. It was great to see the students recognize this innovation by giving an award to a number of them. As they recognized their teachers they said, "I want to thank my teachers for branching out, trying something new, and preparing me for college."

Another student said, "Thank you to the staff of LA. For believing in me. For pushing me. For supporting me. I was having some problems a couple of years ago we won't get into (laugh). I never thought I would be going to college. Now I am. Thank you for making that happen."

Yet another student, "I began my high school career by goofing off and thinking school was a total waste of time. I entered LA with the same bad attitude. Soon, the staff here began to take my hand and lead me to where I am today; a successful person with a clear vision, goals for my life, and aware that an education is priceless."

Finally, another student said, "I have a future now. I'm going to college and am going to do something." He then said to the students, "You can do it too. Push yourself to make a difference. Be remembered."

At the Life Skills celebration and graduation the students were celebrating their own successes over the course of the year. The Life Skills program is a transition program for students, primarily ages 18-21, to prepare them for life upon graduation. These students overcome significant odds each day to grow and learn so that they can not only be successful personally, but contribute to the community. It is a goal that the teachers work with them on, and that you can see they are proud to work towards.

This is what makes the work we do in schools fun and gratifying - seeing our students experience success as a result of the systems of support that are provided for them. Congrats to each of the students at our Learning Alternatives Community School and Life Skills programs for their efforts and successes.

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