Sabrina enrolled at Summit in 2018 with the hope that the school could help her manage her struggles with severe anxiety. She enrolled as an eighth grader at the school’s middle school program,
“The first day I arrived at Summit, I was hopeless and was afraid of everyone around me. Now I have so much to thank The Summit School for and honestly don’t know where I’d be without the school. It was truly a blessing to have found The Summit School. I now am able to enjoy my passions and life.”
She has achieved success academically at Nyack since her arrival, never once letting her anxiety get in the way of her performance, according to her Homeroom and 11th grade English Teacher Kelly Cignarella. Sabrina’s more personal struggles, however, were in need of addressing. Things changed for her when she started not only opening up to staff but making close friends with other students, some of whom she now considers family. Through developing these strong, lasting relationships, Sabrina experienced a dramatic improvement in her day-to-day quality of life. Transition Coordinator & Work-Based Learning Counselor Judy Harrington implies Sabrina’s willingness to learn, in the end, helped her find her place at the school and find comfort engaging with the community there,
“I think her willingness to learn was the key for Sabrina. Sabrina has a great sense of self-awareness and I believe she constantly challenges herself to experience new opportunities to learn. I think in the case of SPN, she joined the group already having film editing skills, but then took it a step further by trying and exceeding expectations in the role of reporter!”
For Sabrina, though, the change didn’t come over night and not without its own struggles. With the help of staff, she was able to organize and frame her goals and only needed to find the courage and strength to execute.
“The school itself won’t change you, you have to be ready and willing to want to change for the better. The school will be reinforcement for your goal.”
By embracing the support offered to her at Nyack, Sabrina has grown out of the shell in which she hid when she arrived at the school. The impactful support, Kelly says, comes naturally as a result of collaboration between staff members who gather to share their approaches with each individual student. Through these meetings, staff collectively discover ways to better support the student. For Kelly at least, the primary drive is simple,
“Once a student is able to see that they are truly supported by you and how successful they can be when they learn to embrace that support, [that] is what drives me because it is so incredible what strides you can make with that student from that moment forward.”
With the friendships she honed at Nyack, Sabrina built the confidence to start and develop the school’s TV news program in the 2021-2022 year. Drawing from her childhood experience writing and making videos, she leads interviews, edits, produces, and directs for Summit Positive News. Her Physical Education teacher and Community Manager, Jon Neiderman, says Sabrina’s ability to interview students and staff really stands out to him,
“She has a knack for bringing in humor to her interviews and I enjoy how she has progressed in her editing skills. She is also very open to ideas… She really doesn’t fear being in front of a camera or making mistakes. She learns and changes her approach.”
Sabrina interviews local artist Manny Santana of “New York is a Nationality” during The Resilience Project Workshop at Summit School last fall.
Jon recognizes Sabrina’s success as a result not just of healthy communication with staff but from collaboration with her fellow students. Kelly agrees with Jon that there are multitudes of ways communication plays a part in putting students in the position to prosper,
“We teach them how to cope when they’re struggling. We teach them how to lean into support provided for them rather than resist it. We teach them how to form positive and healthy relationships with their peers and staff. We show them the importance of coming together and being a part of a community. All of these things are crucial skills that they can then carry into their lives after Summit… If my students could remember one thing that I taught them, it would be that it is okay to ask for help, in all aspects of life. As a team we can accomplish and overcome so much more rather than trying to figure everything out on our own.”
With such a multitude of skills taught, it is clear the Summit School is doing much more than helping students get good grades. While the social and emotional support of any special education school is vital, the staff hopes to provide students with the tools they need by building a lasting community that will continue post-graduation. Sabrina believes it is particularly beneficial that fellow students have a group program during mentoring for them to speak their mind about current events and things happening in each others’ personal lives. This sort of programming connects students with each other and staff, engaging them in a collective struggle rather than a personal one. Programs like the one Sabrina supports are essential to the school’s success as it is through finding ways for students to work together that the school will instill students with a sense of perseverance in daily life post-graduation. Using Sabrina’s experience as a framework, the school hopes to continue honing students’ confidence in themselves through fostering a supportful network.