One year has passed since we first interviewed Ashlei. Last spring her daughter Aspen was finishing her first semester at the Elaine Clark Center’s Heart of Hope Academy. We asked Ashlei what has
changed for her family in the past year, and she said first and foremost: she doesn’t have to worry about Aspen, or her brother Jarel.
After several years in public school, Ashlei felt Aspen “was just slipping through the cracks.” Receiving accommodations was a long, complicated process, and they heard so many times that they
had to wait, wait, wait. Ashlei knew she had to find a place that could meet Aspen’s needs more quickly than the public school system, and she found ECC in 2021.
Soon after, Aspen’s younger brother Jarel joined her at ECC. After his first year in a private pre-K setting, his teachers let Ashlei know they couldn’t accommodate his needs the next year. He had his special developmental needs they weren’t equipped to meet.
"I just wish they had better special education resources for kids with special needs and didn’t have to go around all these policies,” Ashlei commented on some of the problems her family faced with the public school system. The teachers could see her kids needed help, but school and district policies limited their ability to help.
However, at ECC with small classroom sizes and trained teachers, Aspen and Jarel blossomed. The teachers helped Jarel feel comfortable with learning. They incorporated his passion for dinosaurs into all his lessons, and let him sing and dance as a way to learn.
Meanwhile, Aspen now feels supported and confident. She is independent and responsible, and she can follow instructions and handle her frustrations more maturely. Aspen and Jarel’s time at ECC was only possible thanks to their scholarship. Prior to receiving the scholarship award letter, Ashlei enrolled Jarel at another school, assuming the cost would not be manageable for their family.
“Knowing that we could put them in the type of school they need to be in, and get the help they need...for me, it really means a lot.” Ashlei said.
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