Blog entries are usually about happy things that happen to us, aren't they? The blog paints an idyllic picture of our day to day lives, but, we all know that day to day life is much more complex than anything that can be conveyed with blog entries. My intention in keeping our family blog is to chronicle our lives. I mainly include the happy stuff - and there is plenty of happy stuff to write about. At the same time, we have plenty of "growing" experiences to write about. Some I have chosen to include, some I have not. I have chosen to include this story. In the picture we have Samantha - 14 years old. She is standing by the door to what we call ALE - the Alternative Learning Environment. This picture was taken today - 21 January 2014, her last day at ALE. ALE is a classroom setting (a separate campus from all other schools) for kids who get themselves into trouble. There are a variety of reasons why kids get sent to ALE - it's mainly for drugs, but, some are for truancy or violence. The students are in the 7th through 12th grades and they are sent here for a "sentence" fitting their "crime". Each day at ALE the student has the opportunity to earn five points. Once you reach your point goal you can return to mainstream classrooms. Samantha's point total was 400 points. While at ALE, the students work independently on computers and they can work at their own pace. There's very little interaction with other students except at lunch and PE. They also have small group counseling sessions every day.
Samantha can choose to tell you or, more likely, not to tell you WHY she was sent to ALE. That is her prerogative and her business. I will respect that.
I will tell you what she expressed to me while at ALE - what she learned from this experience. (We've talked a lot about this stuff lately....) Samantha learned that mistakes can be learning experiences and not everyone chooses to see them that way. Some get mad and bitter and hard. Some learn and accept and progress. She has learned that people are people and judgments are necessary to a point, but, detrimental when made too quickly. She has learned that being different is a good thing and making your own way in high school (or in life) can be tricky. Samantha has learned who stood by her and who talked about her while her back was turned. She learned the true meaning of friendship and family. She found support from those who truly love her and abandonment from some she thought would help her. (That was hard to watch.) Even the clothes changed her. Our once label conscious teenager is now firmly on the side of school uniforms. She says she felt no pressure to have that cute scarf or cool jeans. School is a place to learn, not a fashion show or a way for the rich kids to show off.
Samantha is a strong young lady. She knows her mind and she speaks her mind. This ALE experience has been hard on our whole family, but, on the last day, I can say, for myself, that I believe Samantha is even stronger. She is more resolute about her future and she is equipped to handle what comes her way. I am proud of her. Very proud.