By Executive Director, John Reilly, MSW, LCSW, PsyA
As the Executive Director of a private, therapeutic school, the month of June always provides an opportunity to reflect on the past school year and the lessons learned. Watching the growth and transformation of so many students reminds me of the importance of providing students with an opportunity to thrive, not just survive school.
For most people the middle school and high school years greatly shape how we feel about ourselves. Because school is a place where social life is established and where various challenges are experienced, how those years go is so important. When the school is the right match for the student, it can be a fulfilling place where cherished memories and relationships are made. For others though, school can come to represent a dark, uncaring place where a negative self-image can be reinforced. Some just survive in school and they never get that opportunity to thrive. The opportunity for a positive transformation through adolescence to adulthood gets challenged. Over the years I have come to realize the importance of offering a solution to that challenge.
Eighteen years ago I became associated with Sage Day schools and have been witnessing personal transformations ever since. Sage Day provides a Transformational Therapeutic Education (TTE) which is a model of schooling that fosters academic and social-emotional learning for students whose school performance is adversely affected by anxiety, depression and related disorders. It is a student-centered approach that continuously considers and addresses both the academic and emotional strengths and needs of the student. It requires sustained and intensive collaborative efforts from students, parents, teachers and therapists. Students may come to us just surviving, but through the support, caring and challenges that happen daily, these students begin to feel better and take risks that make their lives more fulfilling.
I had the opportunity to run into a graduate from 8 years ago who said “if it wasn’t for Sage I would not be where I am today.” He was a student, who during the intake, said school is a “torture…I have no friends…. I am so alone.. I want to drop out.” Within a few weeks at Sage he made friends and began to feel part of something bigger than himself. He got through challenges with help from his therapist, staff and the support of his peers. He slowly acquired the tools that he brought with him into college. He graduated college and now he is engaged too a woman he met at work. So with the right environment and support, this young man went from feeling like he didn’t belong in school to a college graduate who found a fulfilling career and love… What a transformation!