Monarch isn’t just a school. It’s a home for students with disabilities like me to get away from the torture of the real world and get ready to go back when they have learned to cope. It doesn’t just take a couple of years, but a lifetime of trying your best. Monarch is a steppingstone … actually, it’s many steppingstones all rolled into one. But you don’t realize what has been accomplished until you leave. The day you leave Monarch, you look back and see all the progress you have made. I have matured into the butterfly that is the metaphor of The Monarch School. I haven’t completely gotten rid of my problems but having a family like The Monarch School helped me to cope with them. Now I have the skills to deal with the problems of the real world
The first school where I really felt a sense of safety was Monarch School, in Houston, Texas. I spoke there a few years ago and was immediately struck by the peaceful environment. It was evident as soon as I stepped through the doors. The whole place felt gentle. And in that safe world, the kids did not have the cornered animal look. The difference between them and me in high school was striking. Being there made me wish there had been schools like that when I was a kid. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt the need to leave in tenth grade. For that realization, the Monarch School awarded me an honorary high school diploma in May of 2008. So I’m not a tenth-grade dropout anymore. I’m a High School Graduate.Monarch was one of the first schools to adopt Look Me in the Eye, and one of the first schools to ask me to speak to its students. From that beginning they went on to develop an excellent Leader’s Guide for Look Me in the Eye, and another for Be Different. Monarch’s greatest gift to me is probably the student perspective. Much of the Leader’s Guide was actually developed in conjunction with the students themselves; doing so was a remarkable experience.
I know that my success represents many other students’ successes, too. In fact, I am positive that many students of The Monarch School will experience huge transformations like mine, and that they will go out into the world ready to give back what they have so generously received.
All I can think of is ‘wow.’ When Christopher started at Monarch five years ago, he was a lost, angry and confused young teenager. And who could blame him? No one understood him. He had no friends, no self-esteem and in many ways was alone in a world he did not understand. He had been shuffled through public school for a while, was asked not to return to private school, had several short-term hospital stays, and two lengthy residential treatment stays. There were so many psychiatrists, neurologists, psychologists and medications that I have lost count. And then we found Monarch.I remember some words Neal said when we first spoke with him. He spoke of a community, a place where students learned how to moderate, regulate and become aware of those around them. And truly it is. As for Christopher, he speaks of Monarch as the only place he has ever felt accepted. The only place he has made friends. A place that included the only adults who knew how to help him.For all of you who have touched Christopher’s life, words of thanks are not nearly adequate. And there are many of you. Your patience is unparalleled, your energy immense and your compassion remarkable. Thank you for all your hard work, for the extra steps you took, for the extra effort you made and the hours you gave. Your dedication to the special needs of these teenagers is honorable. Please know that you have made not only a difference in Christopher’s life, but have taught, touched and have given to our family as well.You are, and always will be, a part of our family. We will carry with us the appreciation, knowledge, memories and the hope you have imparted to us.
At the school I went to before Monarch, I wasn’t learning the right stuff. It was too hard for me. They weren’t teaching me the right way. People would not accept me for what I was—and sometimes I got pushed around or just pushed aside. When people would say mean words to me, I thought it meant: ‘You don’t know anything. You’re not right for this school.’ I knew I was smart, but after a while, I decided to let them think that they were right—that I didn’t know anything. I just gave up. My high school career was going down the drain.Monarch has made a huge difference in my life. I made better grades than I’ve ever made. I made friends. I have more chances to do real stuff in the world, including dances, social events and getting a job.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to the Monarch faculty for all they do every day—for both the things that we, as parents, are aware of, as well as the things that happen behind the scenes. Based on the Yale report, which I have used as a roadmap for years to help Joshua develop skills, he should not be able to do what he’s doing: sitting at a table with several peers, working on projects with peers, enjoying friendships—the whole shebang. I once wondered if Joshua would attend a prom. The thought of him going with a date was beyond my wonder. But last night, Joshua went to the prom with a date, and he reported a wonderful evening. Joshua is amazing—and each of you are, too. I will never forget the gift of life you have given to Joshua and to us.
When I came to Monarch, I wouldn’t accept anybody’s alternative opinion. Now, I’m a mediator known for my ability to be neutral, as well as my confidence and tranquility. Monarch has been with me through depression, anxiety, and self-doubt. They never lost hope in me. When I enter into a social situation now, I have confidence. I can’t imagine living without my Monarch connections.
I cannot thank you enough for all you and the wonderful people who work at Monarch do for my son and all the precious kids who go there. We recently had our meeting with Dr. Hall and the teachers, and it was so positive. The feedback was easy to understand and helpful. My husband and I were prepared for additional therapies and lists of things we needed to do for Seth, and just to hear that everything is working and that we’re on the right path was such a relief! We are seeing growth and skills in him that were not present before and he still likes school! Again, thank you for your vision, hard work and dedication to start The Monarch School.
I am about to cry as I read this. I often get questions from people about Lauren and which school she attends. I respond by telling them that I have a different child than the one who entered Monarch at five years old. Lauren was a sad, scared little girl who lived very much inside herself when she was five. She knew there were others around her but she could not interact with them, she was so overwhelmed with stimuli she could not learn, she was unable to express or comprehend her emotions… every day was a terrible struggle for her and for us. Now, Lauren is a happy, outgoing girl who loves to play and learn. Her ability to express how she is feeling and deal with obstacles amazes me every day. All of this is because of you guys at Monarch and what you do… saying thank you just isn’t enough but I will say it anyway!
We continue to see amazing progress by Aaron at home. In fact, I am generally astounded. It has been a long time since he has sustained a “meltdown.” He is just a different child altogether. He is far more patient than before and is willing and eager to help out with chores around the house. He is definitely behaving in a more mature way all around.The main thing I believe I am seeing is that he is gaining the self-respect and personal dignity that any human being ought to have. So many things in his life pre-Monarch conspired to make him believe he was the scum of the earth. Without intervention, even with loving and devoted parents, there was a tendency for him to be bitter and angry. I see all that anger melting away and a remarkably different child emerging.I know that it’s always a work in progress, but thanks to you and all the staff at Monarch for helping him reach this point. I am certain that had we left him at his former school, he would have continued his downward spiral. I thank God for all of you and what you are doing.”