Michael’s Story: How Rising Ground transformed Michael into a Biondi Elementary School Salutatorian
At Rising Ground, we never give up on a child. So when Michael’s behavior and emotions interfered with his ability to learn at Biondi, we increased our support to include additional Rising Ground services. So when Michael graduated Biondi Elementary School as salutatorian, we were nearly as proud as his mom!
Two years earlier, Michael had enrolled in the Biondi Schoolso he could get the academic and therapeutic support he needed to help him learn. But he still struggled. He rarely got to class on time, and behaved aggressively at home and in the classroom. At one point, he was hospitalized for depression. That led to his referral to our Children’s Care Management program, which helps families access resources to care for children with complex medical and mental health needs. Michael had experienced trauma, and needed on-going therapy beyond that which the school could provide. At that point, the care management program connected Michael’s family to Rising Ground’s Bronx Family Mental Health Clinic for counseling.
“For the first time ever, Michael was heard,” explained his Bronx Family Mental Health Clinic therapist Chauntel Chisolm. Chisolm worked with Michael individually and also conducted family therapy sessions with Michael and his mother. Michael learned coping skills; his mother began to change her interactions with him. Things started falling into place for Michael. His grades improved. So did his conduct, which earned him a behavior award at graduation! Michael has continued his education at Biondi Middle and High School.
His mother is grateful. She said, “Since coming to Rising Ground, Michael has been able obtain tools that has put him in the driver’s seat of guiding his life in the right direction.”
Yesslyn’s Story: “I’m Beautiful”
When Yesslyn came to the Biondi School, she was seriously behind in school and struggled with low self-esteem. She had trouble reading and retaining information, had no friends, and was bullied.
All that has changed. She’s now at grade level in math and reading, and she credits her teacher Mr. Jackson for her success. Like her, he comes from a background with great challenges. Yet, he showed Yesslyn that challenges can be overcome. Her classmates also set a good example. She saw how they could focus on working and learning, and the big difference it made in their lives.
Today, Yesslyn says: “Now I feel like I am a great person; I’m beautiful!”
Keturah’s Story: “A Nurse, Like My Mom”
“When I first came here, I was a mess! I was in and out of the program. I was not listening to my teachers. I was running around the school, and I did not make good decisions. One day, a counselor asked me, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I said a nurse, like my mom.
“She asked if I knew what I had to do to be a nurse. I said I had to graduate high school. ‘You know what you must do to get that diploma. You have to stay in class and do your work,’ she said. I got upset and ran out of her office.
“But one day I came to my senses and realized she was right. I went to her office and apologized. That day I started going to class.” Keturah is now a proud graduate of Biondi High School, Class of 2018.
Christian’s Story: “I’m Going Places!”
When Christian graduated from Biondi High School, he was excited about his future. He was accepted at SUNY, where he planned to study new media.
But for Christian, this was a second “new beginning.” He had overcome tremendous challenges to get to this point.
Christian was hospitalized for the first time when he was 10. He spent much of his early adolescence in and out of mental-health treatment facilities and had lived for eight months in a therapeutic foster home. Christian faced family conflict at home and regularly fought with his mother. As a consequence, he fell behind in school.
Then, he enrolled as a residential student at Biondi High School, living at the Residential Treatment Center on the adjacent campus.
“I was extremely nervous about coming here to Rising Ground, and I didn’t want to be away from home,” Christian says. “It took a while to get used to everything. But now, I know that being here has really helped me a lot.”
With the support he received at Biondi High School, Christian caught up in school—enough to graduate with a Regent’s diploma. The emotional and therapeutic progress he made at the Residential Treatment Center is as impressive as his academic success. With teachers and mentors focused on helping him work through his emotional and behavioral issues, Christian learned to cope with his anger and mental-health challenges.
Christian has developed a positive sense of self-esteem and responsibility that has prepared him to succeed. “Going to college is a great next step,” Christian says. “I am really excited about it. A college degree can take you places, and now I know that I’m going places.”