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Friday, Apr 4, 2014

Great grades, community service, and a bright future

Justin M. is a bright, amiable 15 year old, whose disarming smile gives no hint of the young man from Brooklyn who arrived at Berkshire’s Twombly Leadership Academy a little over a year ago.

“I failed eighth grade because I never went to school,” says Justin. “I was really depressed for a long time and didn’t know how to express my feelings. I stopped caring about school and I stopped caring about myself.” Justin then smiles and adds, “I’m not depressed anymore. I like going to school here and know that my staff and teachers really care about me and want me to succeed. I also care about myself more now and am accomplishing goals that I never thought I could!”

It shows: Justin is now an ‘A’ student at Berkshire’s Jr./Sr. High School and has the second highest GPA in the school. His ambition is to have the highest GPA in the school and eventually become the valedictorian for the class of 2018. His report card is filled with teacher comments like, “Justin is a pleasure to have in class.”

imageHe’s not the only young man to show a dramatic change over the course of a year. Teachers, counselors, and staff have a lot to do with changing children’s lives. Justin and his classmates are very busy these days. For example, besides school, he has two jobs on campus, as part of Berkshire’s popular and effective Workforce Development Program. One of his jobs is in the Culinary Program (Justin strikes an "Iron Chef" pose in photo at right).

“I’m really happy to be earning a paycheck. My goal is to save $3,000 by next February so that I can take a trip to El Salvador with my mom to visit our family – we almost never can see each other,” said Justin. “I like earning my own money, and I like the work, too.”

When asked if there are any jobs he doesn’t like, Justin said he does them anyway. “I do them, because they need to be done.” Clearly, he has developed a work ethic.

“Justin has become more self-confident, is happy to help other students and staff, and really wants to be a good role model,” said Judy French, a Behavioral Assistant who works with Justin’s group at the school.

Outside of school and work, Justin volunteers in the community. He regularly visits a nearby nursing home, providing companionship and entertainment to residents there. Recently, another volunteer, who brought Justin and other students to the nursing home, read Justin’s glowing report card to some of the seniors (photo at left). Although embarrassed, Justin enjoyed the well-deserved attention.

He has also worked at a local animal shelter. In fact, he plans to become a veterinarian and he’s already thinking about which college would be best for him.

Talking about the many differences he has found since coming to Berkshire, Justin says, “In Brooklyn I was used to lots of people, tall buildings, and the sound of sirens and even gunshots sometimes. Up here, there aren’t as many people, the buildings are little, it’s quieter, and there’s lots of fresh air.” Clearly Justin has brought some of his own fresh air to us as well.

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