As a mental health service provider, I am always on the lookout for resources for my clients. Those resources range from doctors to healthy recipes and I keep a stock pile of information at the ready. This being said, I hesitate to recommend an individual, service or product that I do not have direct experience with. I find that since I am not obligated through direct partnership or employment to suggest a certain service, I can truly be honest with my clients, offering information based on my professional opinion and personal experience.
During the previous month, I had the opportunity to attend an Open House at Aim High School, a private school, in Whitmore Lake, Michigan. According to their website, Aim High is an educational alternative for students, focusing on learning through a college ready curriculum. This college preparatory institution, which now includes 6th-12th grades, supports students with Asperger’s Syndrome or similar learning styles, who struggle in mainstream, public education settings for variety of reasons.
Ms. Gwen Dunlap, one of Aim’s founders, shared with me that her school strictly follows the Michigan Merit Curriculum standards which allows students to graduate with a State of Michigan diploma upon completion of the program. Something that, for a lot of my clients, is very difficult in their local public school district. Ms. Dunlap mentioned during our conversation that Aim High School has a great working relationship with the public schools in Whitmore Lake, and seeks to partner with and be a support to other districts, as their student population comes from as far away as Birmingham and Novi.
Throughout the Open House I heard over and over, from teachers, from parents, from several students, that Aim High School strives to focus on each individual student’s abilities, rather than their disability, working to strengthen and empower them. It was explained to me that just about every student comes into Aim High with an IEP, with accommodations, with modifications. All of these needs are met and supported in the general classroom.
Average classroom size is 5 students, allowing teachers the time and flexibility to work with each student individually, on their level. While all core subjects are present in the Aim curriculum, it was the inclusion of a Life Skills course that I was most impressed with. Aim High School’s Life Skills course, which is currently taught by Mr. Mark Beemsterboer, includes topics like, proper nutrition, understanding humor and sarcasm, home maintenance practices, and understanding percentages and discounts. All great, imperative, and very specific knowledge for their students to master. I’ll even go as far as saying imperative information for ANY teenager to learn.
Overall, I was incredibly impressed by Aim’s facilities and eagerness to share their passion, love and pride in their students. While Aim High School advertises themselves as a school for alternative education, I can’t help but wonder how the face of education would change should their model become the standard?