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Seeing Beyond the Labels

Posted by CJ Spirito | Aug 19, 2015 4:04:00 PM

BeyondLabels.jpgOur school has always been an open and affirming place for students with a wide diversity of identities and backgrounds. In our small, warm, welcoming community, students learn to appreciate themselves and each other as individuals, each bringing a unique perspective and a unique set of strengths and challenges. Each year, as we help students build a cohesive and meaningful community, we also teach them how to respect, include, and value a diverse group of fellow students, seeing beyond labels of race or culture, sexual orientation, thinking style, learning disability diagnosis, economic background, or anything else.

Relationships as individuals

Our small size and our school culture encourage students to form relationships based on who they are as individuals, rather than what groups they may belong to. Students who may have felt persecuted or bullied in other settings are often greatly relieved to feel included and safe here. We have a great track record of including a wide diversity of students, including students of color, international students, gay or lesbian students, and students with strong religious beliefs. Even students who don’t belong to some “group” with a designated label find it refreshing to participate in a community more free of stereotypes, where they can be themselves.

One community of individuals

Over the years we have also found that our supportive, personalized approach helps de-escalate problems that may have been much more troublesome in other settings. Many successful Rock Point students have backgrounds that include difficulties related to anxiety around school or social situations, obsessive or compulsive behaviors, depression, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, executive function weaknesses, or school avoidance. If students had significant clinical issues in the past (substance abuse, self-harm), they did extensive clinical work before arriving at Rock Point and are on the uphill climb with a clear plan in place to remain healthy. Some other students are on the high-functioning end of the Asperger’s spectrum. Others of our students are adopted or have dealt with extreme loss in their lives. And yet, to look at these students in our community, you would probably have difficulty telling which students had dealt with issues like these in the past.

Students see beyond the labels

In fact, oftentimes students find that our individualized, affirming environment is so much a better “fit” that problems that may have been more troublesome elsewhere simply don’t manifest the same way here. Again and again we see students come into our school, look around, and realize that this truly is a place where they will be valued for their strengths and gently supported in their challenges. They relax and open up a bit, which lets their natural capabilities come into play. The end result is often that students see beyond the labels and come to value their own minds, and the minds of others, for their inherent dignity and unique perspective.



Topics: Open & Inclusive

Written by CJ Spirito