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Coming up in January I will have been at LightHouse for a full year. 

School was a mix for me before LightHouse. In middle school I was at my peak social life. This was when I made all of the friends I have now. It was great, but then we all left for high school and I went to a different school than my friends. I ended up not talking to anyone. It was a good school, but socially it really sucked for me. I stayed because I was doing things other teenagers weren’t doing, but I had no social life. Then COVID hit.

When I first came into LightHouse my favorite thing was how much natural light it has. I love that so much because all of my schools before were like cinder block jail buildings and it was really depressing. 

My original plan was to leave school and just get my HiSet. Before coming to LightHouse I had a two month period where I needed a mental health break from school and it was the middle of quarantine. Then we thought about LightHouse because it’s not a traditional school and thought maybe someone there could work with me on getting my HiSet. Once I came I found so much support.  I thought I could finish my last two years of high school after all and not just jump right into the HiSet. 

Coming to LightHouse was difficult at first because I came in the middle of the year and it was hybrid because of CoVid. But now this year I got to have a fresh start with a new year and I found a group of friends that I really like. I enjoy school a lot more than I used to. It is a lot less stressful here. The teachers are actually invested and not just there for money, and I want to learn. I am not good at math but in Carlos’ Entrepreneurship class we are doing math about breaking even, and I got a hang of that. That makes sense to me. Socially things were hard at first because I was socially anxious and didn’t want to try to make friends. I kind of had PTSD from high school cliques. But everyone is so much more accepting at LightHouse. I feel like I can participate a lot more without getting made fun of. The space feels open but the people do, too. 

I have definitely become a lot more open minded since being at LightHouse. I was open minded before, but I definitely think coming to LightHouse opened my eyes even more because I got out of the mainstream society. 

My favorite class so far was absolutely the Dula class. If I could take that class over and over again I would. I also have started painting shoes at LightHouse, and I am really proud of that. I have also gotten a more clear view of what I want my future to look like. It was all over the place before, but now I have a clearer picture. I am focused on a specific path that I want to go on. 

If I could give advice to anyone coming to LightHouse I would say to not let the fact that it’s different scare you away because you won’t get these kinds of great opportunities in traditional settings. In reality, you don’t need to know so much of what they make you memorize in standard schools. What I am learning in entrepreneurship class and psychology class is going to be so much more useful. Take advantage of it and don’t be afraid.

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Lee’s Story:

I’ve been going to LightHouse for four years now. I started right out of middle school. School used to feel very fast paced and extremely stressful for me. At that time in my life I was not the person who could do well in such  a fast paced environment. Coming to LightHouse helped me a lot. It gave me the space and support to prepare for real-life, fast-paced environments and helped me learn how to deal with difficult situations. Life before LightHouse was extremely difficult for me to handle. 

In 8th grade there was an incident that happened and my parents realized that public school was not the best fit for me. My mom was talking to one of her friends who knew Catherine, and so LightHouse was introduced to her. When she brought the idea to me I thought it sounded really cool. My initial reaction when I came to LightHouse was that I loved it. I walked in and was like, this is a very bright place and everyone looks so happy and I would love to go there.

At LightHouse I understand a lot more of the academic stuff than I would have at a public high school. Teachers are able to do one-on-ones here more than they are in public schools. In public school there are like 23 people in a class but here there are like 8 students and the teacher can talk to us all directly. This makes it easier for me to process stuff. My social battery has also expanded a lot more. When I hang out with friends I don’t get as tired as I used to. One of my favorite LightHouse memories was the Christmas party right before COVID. I love the holiday parties that we throw here because I can meet everyone’s family members and it’s really fun. 

My favorite class is Ashley’s True Crime class and next up is Ashley’s Psychology class. I love true crime and learning about the brain and how it functions and how certain things affect us. I don’t think a true crime class would be taught in a public school, so it’s cool taking it here. 

I am proud of myself for finishing essays at LightHouse. In public school I never finished any essays or did any of the work I was supposed to. Coming here I was skeptical about finishing assignments that were due, but I am proud of myself because I have finished a lot more work than I did in my whole elementary and middle school experience.

My advice to someone who would be looking at LightHouse would be to keep an open mind. You can have some expectations but keep an open mind. LightHouse is a place where anything is possible. You can learn the craziest things here and also take basic core classes. 

Thank you for supporting LightHouse!

You can also mail regular old checks to:

LightHouse Holyoke
208 Race St.
Holyoke, MA 01040

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“We make a living by what we get,
but we make a life by what we give.”

—Winston Churchill