Submitted by a Walton County parent:
*Helena (name changed at the preference of the student’s family) was in foster care from 2016-2021. Before coming into care, she was moved around and went to many different schools. When she came to us in 2016, she was placed back in first grade, due to the inconsistent attendance during the previous year. It was immediately apparent that she needed to be serviced in Special Education. Helena was smart but had lots of emotional and behavioral concerns that kept her from excelling in the classroom. Before being placed in special education, Helena had lots of time out of the classroom for her behavior, including many in-school suspensions and several out of school suspensions.
We were finally able to get the school to complete testing and Helena was served under an IEP in the EBD program from 1st-5th grade. It was recommended that she be moved to a self-contained program at an alternative school. We fought that and believed with support at school and home, she could excel and be the person that God created her to be. Helena has always been kind, compassionate, loving and tender….but she also had lots of trauma that needed to be dealt with.
Helena struggled in 1st and 2nd grade but by 3rd grade, she was finding her footing. By the 5th grade, Helena had shown growth in behavior and in the classroom. She had stability and love at home, and we were finally able to tell her that she would be adopted by us, after years of instability with the foster care system. We decided to change her plan to a 504, so that she wouldn’t have a label going into middle school.
Helena enjoyed middle school, but we started to observe some things that were not sitting well. She seemed to be losing some of her joy. She was teased at school for being different. She wasn’t accepted for being sweet and kind, so she felt like she needed to be “tougher.” Her teachers noticed that she was actively trying not to be the “teacher’s pet” because she was being teased for it. She was working hard to fit in, and it was making her miserable. She had acquaintances, but really didn’t have any friends. She didn’t realize this…but we, as her parents, thought it was glaringly obvious.
Last year, we made a decision that something had to be done. We were watching our beautiful girl become a shell of who God made her to be. We knew that we needed more people pouring into her and affirming the person that she was. She was spending more of her time at school than at church and home. We needed more people showing her God’s love and teaching her from a Christian perspective. We needed her to be surrounded by other kids whose parents wanted the same for them. She had spent half her life without this and we had to make sure that she got it in the second half.
We could not afford private school. We prayed and asked God to please help us make the right decision. We prayed for him to show us an avenue to be able to afford to make this move. We knew that we had to do whatever it took. We knew that this could change the trajectory of her life, and we had to make it happen. Heather Leo, who works with Learning to Serve, reached out to us when she heard that we were exploring the private school option. She told us about the Learning to Serve Scholarship and we knew that God was giving us the answer to our prayers.
With the scholarship, Helena was able to attend the private school of our choice. She is not teased for being adopted. She loves being a “teacher’s pet”, she has straight A’s. She is involved in the chorus and theater. She is a cheerleader and runs track. She has friends that love and care about her. She is learning more and more about God and how much he loves her. She is accepted, loved and encouraged to be herself. She is thriving. She is happy. She has her joy back.
Without the LTS scholarship, I don’t think we could have made this happen. It truly is life changing and I believe that in Helena’s case, we will look back and say that having the ability to make this change was one of the keys to her success.
We can never thank LTS and their donors enough for this gift!
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