“In all my years, from kindergarten all the way up through the beginning of high school, I never would have thought I would be here today. I never thought I would be standing here, graduating from an “alternative school” – LifeWorks School. And in the beginning, after I came here in the middle of the winter this year, it was very hard for me to accept all that has happened in my life, all the adversity, and most of all the reality of me not being able to walk in my public school’s graduation.
Three hundred and sixty five days ago, this time last year, I seemed like that kid who seemingly had it “all together”, great grades, great smile, and a bright future ahead of him.
Several months down the road this would seem even more real. As I found myself surrounded with publicity over an enormous achievement in my young life; getting a piece of artwork on display at the Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute Science Museum that is still there today for millions to see.
On the outside, I seemed to have it all.
The truth was very different.
On the inside I was depressed.
On the inside I was alone.
On the inside I felt misunderstood.
On the inside I considered suicide on a day to day basis.
In December, 2006, these issues truly came to a head and my life changed forever – for the better and for worse. Sometimes I think we tend to deny we have a problem for too long until it’s completely obvious we need help. And that’s exactly what happened.
For the first time in my life I experienced serious consequences for my own actions. For the first time in my life I was expelled from school and not allowed to come back. For the first time I had been in trouble. I have never even been in detention before…
For the first time, I was taken to criminal court. For the first time, I was placed on probation. For the first time, I had a criminal report. It seemed as if my depression had taken control of my life…because I seemed to stop caring about everything. I stopped caring.
But also, for the first time, I set foot into the lobby of Foundation Behavioral Health. And for the first time, I found out what it feels like to make real progress in their partial program.For the first time, I started feeling a sense of home and that the depression could be treated, and that I could get better.
For the first time, I experienced a school administration that would be willing to accept me, as a bright, determined student who thrives academically, but who also has a very significant emotional problem and needs extra help and support and guidance.
For the first time I met a woman named Ms. Leigh Ann, which I feel is one the best things to happen out of all of this. Leigh Ann, my counselor, never lost faith in me. She never gave up on me, even when I wanted to give up on myself.
And I have to thank her for that, from the bottom of my heart.
I want to thank her. I want to thank Foundations for their excellent support and dedicated staff and their partial program. I want to thank LifeWorks Schools for standing by me when my public school would not. When “zero tolerance” forced others to give up so quickly LifeWorks would not give up. They took me with the introductory tour and a welcoming smile. This school gave me love and support and a real chance to succeed, even with this emotional disability I have, this depression. LifeWorks had tolerance when other schools, public schools, had none.
I don’t know what I would have done without LifeWorks Schools’ brief role in my life. I learned and developed and recovered from so much.
And even though it is still hard to believe it, today I stand here, and I am proud to say I have graduated high school. That is something not every does, and I’ve done it. I have no idea of the adversity that I would find in this past year, but I have made it through. I want to give my sincerest thanks to Foundations Behavioral Health at 833 E Butler Ave in Doylestown. Thank you Foundations. You helped me through this and you gave me hope and confidence. Now I’m on my way with my head held high, ready to take the next step in my life so as a freshman at Temple University. Thank you Foundations and LifeWorks, the reality is I could not have made it without you!”
“a good place where you can get more attention and education.”
“The people are nice and I feel good being here.” 7th grader
“a supportive and comforting environment where I feel respected.” 6th grader
“a place where I can be myself.” 9th grader
“a place where I can be open.” 9th grader
“a place where you can be happy.” 7th grader
“a place where you can improve your behaviors and better your life.” 9th grader
“a place where you can improve your coping skills.” 7th grader
“a place where I actually have fun when I’m learning.” 7th grader
“a place where I actually have fun when I’m learning.” 9th grader
“a place where you can learn to improve your behaviors at home and improve your relationship with your family.” 9th grader
“a place to make new friends and get help for your problems.” 7th grader
“a place where you don’t feel alone with your problems.” 8th grader
“Since the day she entered elementary school, life was not easy for our daughter. School presented her with behavioral and academic demands she could not meet, emotional complexities she could not understand and social interactions she could not navigate.
As the parents of two sons on the Autistic Spectrum, we didn’t realize how much the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome in 2009 would solve one mystery but still leave us with so many unanswered questions about how to help her. During the past three years, our 14-year-old daughter did not have success in her previous middle school placements. My husband and I had little hope that there was a program that could both manage her behaviors while simultaneously providing the academic progress that we thought we should no longer expect.
In an interview at another placement the day before we visited Lifeworks Academy, we were heartbroken watching our daughter brought to tears by a barrage of questions about upsetting topics. We were told that it was necessary to determine if their program was the appropriate level of care for our daughter’s issues (although we saw nothing caring about how the interview was conducted). For our child, the entire meeting evoked memories of negative experiences, such as the rejection and bullying by peers, the disappointment and frustration of teachers and frequent academic failures brought on by her emotional difficulties.
From the moment we walked into the lobby at Lifeworks Academy, we knew it was what we were looking for in a school, but did not think existed. We were greeted with the smiles of staff members who genuinely seemed interested in our daughter and hopeful that their program could meet her needs. On a tour of the building, the students in each classroom gave her a warm welcome. Based on this kind reception, she pulled some small rocks that she had painted (the same rocks she had been teased about at previous schools) from her pocket. She was amazed as each student pointed out a favorite and several expressed admiration for her creativity. Every teacher she met identified a topic she enjoyed (such as anime, nail polish, artwork) and our daughter immediately felt like she had found heaven!
Lifeworks Academy has created a program that offers caring, compassionate teachers who make learning enjoyable for students who may not have had positive academic experiences in the past. Rather than squelching the students’ need for rituals, the teachers provide strategies which lessen the students’ anxieties throughout the day by offering them time in the quiet room or a visit to the counselor. The opportunities to work on social skills occur naturally throughout the day, at social skill lunches facilitated by staff, in formal social skills classes and during community-based outings. They also have peer mediation sessions that help the students resolve issues with staff support in a non-threatening manner.
The negative behaviors that resulted from our daughter’s constant state of heightened anxiety have decreased and have almost completely disappeared. The staff at Lifeworks encourages and embraces her quirkiness and uses it to their advantage in the classroom to help her learn. All the characteristics that for years caused her problems and impeded her learning are now celebrated but managed in a structured program that provides positive reinforcement at every possible opportunity.
We now look back and recall the mornings she would not come out from under her bed until the bus had left, the afternoons she came home looking miserable and the nights she cried about her experiences at school as we kissed her goodnight. Our teenager no longer feels the loneliness of being an outcast who speaks a language different from everyone else. Her self-esteem has improved greatly and this change has positively affected our home life. We are so thankful that we found such a wonderful placement that feels like heaven to our special, sweet, talented and quirky daughter.”