The lesson students at this special education school learn to change their lives

Hillsides Education Center, special education, graduation, learning disabilities, students, Los Angeles, Pasadena“Hillsides, you are awesome!” pronounced one of the 10 graduating seniors during Hillsides Education Center’s (HEC) graduation ceremony yesterday.

This was just one of many heartfelt statements made by the students during this milestone that featured the students’ personal reflections on what they have accomplished.

For students who other schools had rejected, the issuing of a well-earned diploma was a day that many feared would never come. However, for these brave and determined students, their dreams of graduation and the future it would create for them was the motivation that inspired them to defy those who had questioned their ability.

HEC is a special education school providing individualized educational services to K – 12 children with various learning and emotional challenges. Established more than 30 years ago to principally serve residents of the Hillsides residential program, it also serves day students enrolled from various school districts throughout the greater Los Angeles and Pasadena areas. Instruction is offered in classrooms of typically 12-14 students, led by certified special education teachers who are complemented by two teaching assistants. The challenges that these students confront are considerable and so their achievements are equally extraordinary.

Throughout their education at HEC, their accomplishments are measured in many ways, such as improved grade proficiency in math or reading, overcoming social anxiety, and being incorporated back into a regular school environment. The ultimate academic achievement is advancing to the next grade and eventually graduating.

During graduation, one after another, the 10 rose to acknowledge the challenges they faced, the efforts they made, and their appreciation for staff, mentors, classmates, and family who helped them along the way. In doing so, they gave witness to perhaps the greatest lesson they have learned: they are not alone in the journey, and together with a community of caring professionals, family, and friends their dreams can be realized.

Their comments were truly inspiring and the source of pride for their teachers, family, and friends. In spite of all the odds, they achieved what many questioned as possible and proved to themselves and everyone else they were well-worth the effort. This dream realized allows them to dream on, confident that much more will be achieved in their lives.

To their exemplary classroom teacher, Julie Howell, her classroom team Dawn Bobo and Richard Huynh, to the HEC Director, Ryan Eisenberg, and the entire staff of HEC, thank you for such extraordinary dedication and commitment to the students of HEC. You are awesome!

View our HEC photo gallery on Facebook!

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