Student Stories

LightHouse students (and parents) share their experiences with the program


Speech from our annual fundraiser, Raise Your Glass
May 24, 2022

Hello, Everyone. My name is Judith and I am a LightHouse parent.

Amy Reese Anderson said, “a person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.” I’m here tonight to share my story because I want you all to understand what your support for LightHouse really means and how it affects real kids and families like mine. I want you to know how much you are appreciated.

For some people traditional school works. For others, not so much. My child is amongst the others.

Covid shutting down in person school was huge obstacle, of course, but my kid didn’t have a safe school to go to long before that. I’d say from the very beginning there were struggles for my kid in school. All the way back to preschool I had my doubts about the logic of a child with select mutism filling the role of a peer mentor, but I went along with the “expert” advice and figured, at least they’re in a classroom setting.

Then after 3 years with minimal improvement they were off to kindergarten! Great! Unfortunately that was worse for them as they attended a strict charter school. Then we tried the neighborhood public school for a few years. Still rough.

Then I found an online homeschooling program for them. Not a good fit, so we requested school choice across town where their siblings attended. Nope, not it. Back again to a charter with a emphasis on arts that failed this kid miserably, again, leaving them in a really dark place, and me with the seemingly impossible task of finding a suitable school for my brilliant and struggling kid.

I won’t bore you with the details of umpteen phone calls and endless research to the end of the earth, finally to circle back to Holyoke. To LightHouse. I had heard vaguely of LightHouse when it first opened and I considered it for my oldest child, but the tuition was out of the question for us. The tuition was still out of the question for us, but we were desperate, so I had to at least try.

In my initial conversation with Catherine she shared how the program works, and then she asked about my child. Crazy enough, she listened and heard what I’d said…dare I say understood. Parts of our story seemed familiar to her, even.

I pushed myself to ask about payment options not knowing what a kidney would sell for, (just kidding).

Catherine said- We’ll figure it out. Why don’t you come in for a face-to-face meeting and see our space.

For those that have been to LightHouse maybe you’ve experienced this, too, but if you haven’t- it’s instantaneous- like Neil Armstrong. Being on Earth versus walking on the moon. Not the same. I told myself it was the excessive oxygen from the numerous plants, that breath of life into endlessly high ceilings of hope and wide wooden floor boards that glisten from the natural lighting. I was dazzled.

Then my kid and I met the team, the staff. Friendly smiling faces, covered in masks but you just knew, they greeted us and we all sat in a relaxed cozy circle, socially distanced of course. It was then and there I was convinced of a “good fit”. As the course selections were discussed and the various staff would brighten with enthusiasm about their class offerings or testify and beam with pride with the mention of their students it was abundantly clear that the LightHouse school is different. “Good different.”

There’s so much my child has been able and will continue to do here at LightHouse. I understand now that this is what Catherine meant. We’ll figure it out. Together.

There are still dark times and struggles. Wishing alone isn’t enough. We’re in a process. But my child isn’t alone and neither am I, and for that I’m eternally grateful, to LightHouse, and also to all of you for helping to make it possible. Your support is deeply appreciated.


LightHouse Class of 2022

I have been at LightHouse for 5 years; since I was in 8th grade. I am a senior this year, which is crazy to think about.

Before I came to LightHouse, I had very good grades in school. I was doing great academically, it was just that I was getting bullied a lot. I was getting bullied everyday about my looks and everything in between. I had no self confidence, and I didn’t believe in myself. I struggled with self harm, and when I told my mom about it she wanted to try to get me into a new school. LightHouse is a large financial commitment, so my mom wanted to really make sure that it’s what I wanted.

When I first walked into LightHouse I was like, “Oh my God, a dog!” because of Apple. Then I just remember feeling calm. I felt serene and at ease when I was touring. I couldn’t believe it was a school and that it existed. I couldn’t believe I had this opportunity – it was almost too good to be true. I just thought I was going to have to put up with getting bullied and having an awful school life. I didn’t realize that there was an option for that to not happen.

One of my initial favorite classes at LightHouse was Ashley’s psychology class. I just loved the format of the class and all of the topics that we were talking about. It was such a nice introduction to LightHouse because a lot of the time it is a very jarring transition coming from public school to LightHouse. Having a class like Ashley’s that was discussion based but still had notes and a conventional topic felt really comforting. Even though everyone hates their old school, you still need time to adapt to LightHouse. I also loved the poetry class that Maghan taught this year. It just made me realize how much I love writing poetry. It was one of those classes that actually made  me change something about my day to day life. I started writing poetry at home. I even told my therapist about it because writing therapy before bed has been very calming. It was one of those classes where I was so shocked at how much I liked it. I wanted to know “where has this been all my life?”

So much has changed in my five years at LightHouse. Personally, I have gone from having nonexistent confidence to actually having confidence. It’s not that my confidence just grew at LightHouse – it was created at LightHouse! I have self confidence and self love now. No one important to you is going to care what you look like. If you go to a job, no one is going to care about what you look like. Before I came to LightHouse I felt that my existence was a problem. Now I feel like I can exist as myself. Academically I have been able to find my career path. I probably would have never been able to discover that I love nails if I stayed at public school. I found my calling and LightHouse was a big part of that. I had the time, space, and resources to work on nail stuff while being at school.

I wrote a poetry book this year, and I am really proud of it. When I came to LightHouse I was really into painting, but I always felt like I didn’t like anything I made. Making the poetry book was one of the few times I have done art and been really proud of it. I was so proud of how it looked, how all of the poems read, and everything about it. It clicked in my brain that everything was coming together in such a beautiful way. In a normal school they tell you what your projects have to be about, but at LightHouse you get to choose your own subject. I remember when I started my first independent study on being a nail technician I realized that I would never be able to do this if I didn’t go to LightHouse.

The staff at LightHouse feels like family members that I wish I had. I don’t feel scared to talk to any of them ever. I have never second guessed talking to someone on staff. They are so understanding of how teenagers are. We act better at LightHouse because we are not scared of the staff. There is such a trusting dynamic. Having an advisor who can be your go to person for personal or academic issues is really refreshing. You always have one person that you can count on. Steph is my advisor right now, and I can always count on her for things and she makes me feel supported and loved. The love staff gives to us is so genuine. In the grand scheme of things, having a positive relationship with an advisor is really helpful for life.

I am a senior this year! I am so excited to graduate. I am so ready to be independent and get out into the world and live my own life. I have my college planned out, and I am so excited for the new chapter of my life. Steph has been such a great help with my college. I would be so lost if I was not at LightHouse. The staff has helped me weigh all of the options for what I could do outside of high school.

My advice to people coming to LightHouse is to not take yourself so seriously. Not everything is all about you, and that’s okay. You have so much time. I encourage everyone to take advantage of everything at LightHouse. Take advantage of independent study. Take advantage of staff and how lovely they are. Take the glass class. Take Carlos’ shop time. Do dual-enrollment classes at HCC. Do the most!

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“So ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid?
And then go do it.”

-Sheryl Sandberg