Fourteen years ago, I met a young girl who now owns a piece of my heart! Kirsten is a remarkable young woman. When you first meet her, she will tell you that she was born with Asperger Syndrome and because of that she learns differently than others. While Asperger’s makes it harder for her to do some things, she also has some wonderful strengths. When Kirsten meets someone, they are in her memory forever. She has good memories of students and teachers she’s met here over the last 14 years here. We invite everyone who has been a student or a teacher at The Freeman Center to return and share some laughs, memories and pizza with a special student and friend who is close to family to us. Kirsten will be happy to see you and so will I!
This young woman wanted to change her future! Sarah left school when she was quite young because she “could not read or understand the schoolwork”. Early last year, she found someone who gave her a chance and a challenge. She began working in an office with the stipulation that she complete her GED or High School diploma within one year.
Sarah began taking online courses and trying, but struggled enough that she went to the boss a week before her first anniversary and told him she was going to have to quite because she “could not do it!” By now, she had shown herself to be a dependable employee and the boss did not want to give up on her.
Several years ago, her boss had brought his son to The Freeman Center. He told her that it had helped his son and that he thought it would also help her. He made it possible for her to get the help she needed.
Sarah came through the door looking scared and sick. Her boss introduced us and asked if we could help Sarah. In many ways, Sarah wasn’t much different than so many of our other students. Yes, she was older but she still had the bad memories of school failure in her mind. She thought she was destined to live her life with poor academic skills. She was humiliated that her young daughter was passing her up.
We began working with Sarah for two hours a week. One day, Sarah did not show up at her assigned time. I contacted her and she said she was “too busy”. A while later, I texted her and asked, “What is more important than changing the next 60 years of your life?” Later, she told me that I had made her mad but as she thought about it, I was right and she would not miss again!
Soon, Sarah was taking lists of words home to study and coming back a few days later to take quizzes on them. She knew them, spelling and definitions. She had made them “her’s”! She was also working with iPad apps I had shown her. Her confidence was growing rapidly.
One week, I read a chapter from “The Secret Garden” to her. She enjoyed that. I offered to let her take it home if she would read the next chapter and she said she would try. When she came back a few days later, I asked her if she had read the chapter. “I read the whole book. That is the first book I have read in my life!” (That is still enough to make this teacher cry!)
Over the next few months, Sarah dug in to the online courses she had almost given up. She used outlining and other study techniques I’d suggested. She began flying through the assignments and completing the courses. The woman was on fire!
As you see from the photo, Sarah recently completed her High School diploma. She will tell you now that this is just the start. As she emailed me this morning: “Changing my future. I love it! It is exactly what I wanted to do, and I am doing it! Thank you very much, you were more than just a small part of this accomplishment! You gave me confidence and courage that I can do it, It is huge! I am very thankful.”
Sarah, thank you…and thanks to your boss!
A few weeks ago, the mother of one of our former students contacted me to ask if she could write a story about The Freeman Center for LewisTalk, a website dedicated to stories about local people and places. I agreed to meet with her at The Freeman Center. Every time I give someone a tour of this place or try to share the story of the path I’ve taken to get here I realize that a lot of things have brought me here.
Due to “word count” restrictions, much of the story had to be pared down to a minimum and other parts had to be left out entirely.
One thing that was instrumental in leading me to The Freeman Center as it is today was a simple cartoon in a paperback book. I have added a couple of pages to The Freeman Center website to share the story of our fortuatous purchase of a Ripley’s Believe It or Not book at a yard sale.