School ensures students possess ALL the skills needed for success
Grade school was very hard for me. I was diagnosed as having dyslexia and ADHD. Reading and spelling were especially hard. I was pulled out of class for extra help, and that was embarrassing. I wasn’t learning, and I didn’t think I was able to learn. At my IEP meeting in the fifth grade, my parents were told that without severe intervention, I would probably not graduate from high school. I was reading at the second-grade level.
My parents enrolled me at Horizon Academy, and things started to change. I was taught how to learn. The strategies I learned included SLANT, the Test-taking Strategy, and the writing strategies. I was taught how to advocate for myself with the Self-Advocacy Strategy. I was also taught social skills like introducing myself and having conversations. All of these skills gave me confidence in myself.
I transitioned to another school at the beginning of my eighth-grade year. I was reading at grade level, and the transition went very well. I was able to talk with my teachers and get their help when I needed it. I felt confident in my abilities, and I knew that I could learn.
I graduated from high school, and I am now attending Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City. I have two more courses to take before I can graduate with an associate’s degree in “Art and Teaching.” I plan to attend the University of Missouri in Kansas City for my bachelor’s degree. My goal is to become a certified art teacher.
I am very grateful to the Horizon teachers and the people who developed the strategies. I want to thank them all for giving me the tools I needed to succeed. The strategies I learned at Horizon helped me to find my love for teaching because I was able to see first-hand that anyone can learn with the right teachers and tools.
When I went to elementary school, I had a bad experience. I did not get the right help or any help at all. The teachers said that I was not trying hard enough. They would not let me go to recess or some assemblies because I was so behind in my work. I had to take home all the work I did not get done and do it as homework. It was very frustrating. It would take almost all night before I got even one assignment done. Then old assignments would just keep piling up on top of the new assignments. I think my teachers were starting to give up on me.
I was diagnosed with dysgraphia, short-term working memory deficits, and ADHD at the end of fourth grade. Once I was diagnosed, the school people decided to support me by sending me to a reading specialist for 20 minutes
a day/4 days a week. That did not come close to helping me.
Then we found Horizon Academy. When I went to Horizon on the first day of fifth grade, I was very nervous and did not think I would fit in, but I just loved it. All the teachers understood exactly what I needed. They were helpful and friendly, students had disabilities just like me, I was able to get my work done on time, and I made a lot of friends. I learned organizational skills and strategies and social skills. I also benefited from the jobs programs, especially PAWS for Freedom, a program where service dogs are trained for people who use wheelchairs. There I met, raised, and trained Emmett, a golden retriever.
After three years at Horizon, I went to a traditional pubic school for eighth grade, and then I attended Blue Valley Northwest High School. While in high school, I became an Eagle Scout. For my Eagle Project, I wanted to give back to Horizon Academy because the staff helped me so much. After talking to the school director, we decided that I would build four raised vegetable beds at Horizon, which are now used for educational purposes. Students are learning how to grow and eat healthy food. I also beautified the back entrance.
I graduated from high school in 2015. I am now attending Pittsburgh State University as a sophomore, and I’m leaning toward Japanese studies as a major. After graduation, I plan to be part of a program where I will teach school in Japan for three years. I credit Horizon with helping me to be successful in high school and college.
Originally published in SIM 30x30+ more stories of success, hope, and innovation (2017, 30x30+17).