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How This Teacher Helped a Student Overcome Massive Challenges to Graduate High School

KVC Niles teacher Ryan Ratlaff in his classroom in Kansas City, Missouri - KVC Missouri

Each year, KVC Health Systems hosts an annual Story Contest to celebrate children and families who found the connection and support to reach their full potential. This award-winning story was shared by Ryan Ratzlaff, a teacher at Niles Prep School in Kansas City, a program of KVC Missouri.

As a teacher at KVC Niles, I often have students that dream of graduating and reaching their post-secondary goals. Well, this story is about a student I recently had that achieved just that and so much more!

Jay is the name that I will use for this student. Jay came to Niles Prep as a junior. He lived in downtown Kansas City, close to our campus. Jay had some challenges at his public school. In particular, he struggled with having appropriate social interactions with both adults and peers. He also struggled with handling the stressors of the daily routine, moving through transitions during the day, and completing schoolwork and tasks independently. Due to these challenges, his Individualized Education Program (IEP) team thought the smaller classroom size and the therapeutic setting at Niles Prep would be best for him.

When Jay began at Niles Prep, I had the opportunity to be his teacher. Our program is a trauma-informed K-12 alternative school in which we can provide students a higher level of support. Jay began making great progress throughout the 2019-20 school year and was doing outstanding in all areas. The therapists on the team helped Jay focus on and grow in his challenge areas in individual, group and family therapy, and I also helped him work on these areas in the classroom. The amount of progress he made in such a small amount of time was shocking to everyone.

However, no one could have foreseen the next big hurdle and challenge that Jay and all of the students, teachers and staff were about to be faced with… the global pandemic, COVID-19.

Everyone had to pivot at the snap of a finger during these times. This added yet another element that could have regressed his progress as Jay was no longer able to receive the same type of support while doing remote learning. He was forced to work more independently and receive instruction virtually every day. All of these things could have been viewed as a major setback. However, he never gave up!

Eventually Jay was able to transition back to his public school. And like most students during the pandemic, he continued to experience several weeks of virtual learning throughout the 2020-21 school year.

Then, in May 2021, Jay just finished his senior year and graduated! He finally achieved his dream of walking across the stage and that is all because of the hard work and persistence that he showed through everything! I am so proud to have been a part of Jay’s success!

Are you looking to make a positive, life-changing difference in the lives of children, teens and families? Join KVC Missouri! The need is great for adults to provide safe, loving homes to children who have experienced abuse, neglect or other serious family challenges. You can learn more about becoming a Missouri foster parent and sign up for the free training class. Or learn about donating funds or items to the children we serve. Or, like Ryan, you can consider working at KVC Missouri by exploring KVC careers. You can also explore our child and family services here. Join us in creating a world in which every person is safe and connected to a strong family and a healthy community.

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