Concord Academy is a private, state-approved, nonprofit school for students with learning and social disabilities in grades 6-12. Students are prepared for a life after school, whether that’s college or the workforce. More than 91 percent of all graduates have satisfied state requirements for earning a regular high school diploma and have entered community colleges, universities, vocational/technical schools or gained employment. All Concord Academy students have a diagnosed disability that qualifies them for an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the majority of whom have a learning disability in reading, math or both. Many students have anxiety or ADHD, and some are on the autism spectrum.
“We have a lot of really bright kids, but they aren’t successful in a traditional classroom setting,” said Concord Academy Director Nan Miller. “A lot of times kids can be mean and bully others. Maybe they can make it academically, but they don’t have many friends. Our kids are accepting of each other. Just to be able to be accepted and have friends is huge, not only for the kids, but the parents, as well. When your child is unhappy and struggling you’re unhappy and struggling. To find a place your child can call home is so important.”
Concord Academy offers modified curriculum. It starts in middle school where students are taught based on performance level. “They may be stronger in math than English so they may be in an English class that’s a mixture of students. We find out what level that student is on and help them pick up the needed skillset,” Nan said. Concord offers smaller class sizes so students receive individualized instruction.
The school has capacity for 70 students which ensures more individualized instruction. It has an open house to start the year, but students can enroll at Concord at any point in the academic year. “When you need us, you need us,” Nan said, adding that the school has taken on a new student as late as May. Prospective students must first have a psychological evaluation. Parents then visit the school to learn more, take a tour and share about their child. If a prospective family is a good fit, they follow with a full-day visit and the student goes from class to class with a mentor.
In talking to former students and parents to find out what those students wish they would’ve learned more of while at Concord the overwhelming answer is independent living skills. So the school installed a teaching kitchen to teach some of the necessary skills for the next phase of life. Concord also has a program that simulates a future work environment for many students and helps them develop basic job skills while exploring career opportunities they most enjoy. Those learned skills also help students gain internships. In fact, all seniors have unpaid internships so they graduate with practical work experience.
Concord Academy encourages volunteers, whether it’s helping out in the classroom, tutoring students, assisting with job skills development or with the fundraising events throughout the year – a golf tournament, 5K race, and auction event coming up in March. Community partners from various businesses help conduct mock interviews with seniors, and there is always interest in having additional partners. For more information about volunteering with, donating to or attending Concord Academy, visit concord-academy.org.
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