As the admissions assistant at Latham Centers I regularly give program tours to parents and families. I was recently on a tour of Latham School in Brewster with a young man and his father. We were anticipating an admission, so the young man was scheduled for a classroom visit after the tour.
While on the tour, we paused to discuss one of the quadrants of our Circle of Courage™ tenants known as Belonging. The father and I discussed recently passed bullying laws. I commented that I was really glad that there were bullying laws that prevented children from being ostracized. He quietly replied “Yes, but they don’t always work.”
His eyes fell on his son who had become preoccupied with a bee collecting pollen. He then shared with me that his son had felt bullied at times in public schools, and that for his entire educational experience, he never really had any true friends, and that he certainly didn’t feel that he belonged.
As we concluded the tour, I asked the young man if he was ready to join the classroom and meet his new friends. His eyes lit up as he looked at me with awe and asked, “Do I have friends here already?” I replied “Of course you do, everybody is friends here. All of the students are friends with each other!” He happily skipped along as we made our way to the main schoolhouse eagerly anticipating the group of friends he was about to meet.
When we got to his classroom, the students were in performing arts class; but his new teacher and aide were waiting for him. They showed him his desk, which was covered in cards that his classmates had made to welcome him. His jaw dropped when he saw all of the cards and his hands began to shake with excitement as he carefully read them. I walked over to him and asked him if he had seen the whiteboard behind him.
When he turned around, he saw a huge welcome sign with his name on it in bright colorful letters. He squealed with delight, “Dad, look at what my friends made for me!” showing his father the cards and pointing to the whiteboard. His teacher took him to meet his classmates and join the class in session while his father and I went to my office to fill out paperwork.
When we returned at the end of the school day to pick up the young man, we watched him saying goodbye to all his new friends/classmates. When I asked him how his day went, he replied, “It was the best day of my life!” He said I was right that all of the kids here were his friends, even the kids that weren’t in his class. He said to his father, “This place is better than Disney!” The father said he had never seen his son so happy.
This is what Belonging is all about. This boy finally had a place where he felt like he was accepted and could and would belong.
Latham Admissions Assistant