On June 16 we had the great honor, and rare opportunity, of hosting a high school graduation ceremony for two of our Riverside School-Needham students and their families. Graduation is a time for students to look back on where they started, and how they have grown. But most importantly, graduation is a time to look forward, into the future. This was a special day for us. Most students return to their educations at a mainstream school, but James and Mark* came to the school as they were finishing up their last years in high school.
James and Mark were referred to the Riverside School through their high schools. Both were at a point in life where nothing else was working to help them navigate through the mental health challenges that impacted their ability to succeed in a public high school. At the Riverside School, both of these young men had to put in the hard work themselves. They set their own goals and worked incredibly hard both personally and academically to meet them. Both had the goal of graduating high school, which they achieved!
What makes this approach so successful? “There is no place like this,” said Mark’s mother. “We never thought Mark would get this far; we didn’t think he would be alive.” She credits the social workers, the teachers, and the program’s interns for their hard work, passion, and dedication to her son. “He had missed an entire year of school, but through the help and support of the Riverside School, he is graduating on time,” said his father.
The purpose of our Riverside Schools is to provide a small, focused group setting for kids who are struggling with mental illness while keeping their academic schedule in line with a traditional school setting. This allows the kids a better chance at success academically as they learn to cope with their diagnosis. The ultimate goal is for the students to either return to a traditional school setting, or a less restrictive school environment, so they can finish their education.
Both boys received diplomas from their town’s public high school.
“They have both grown into leaders here, a skill they didn’t realize they had” shared Maryellen Pambookian, Program Director for the Riverside School and Lifeskills Center, Needham. “When new kids come to the program, they help them navigate this new setting and make them feel at home.”
Welcome to the class on 2017, James and Mark, congratulations! We are all so proud of both of you, and can’t wait to see what the future holds.
~Shannon Sorensen, Vice President of Child and Family Services
*Names are changed for the privacy of the families.