As he rounds the corner and wheels into his social studies class at Central Tech High School, Josh Napierkowski has a smile several years in the making.
Josh’s dream had been to eventually attend classes at his local high school, and after just a few weeks there, his smile reveals it all – a sense of belonging, excitement, and, of course, pride.
But to get to that point, Josh put in a lot of work. He began at the Barber National Institute in 2009 with many goals to work on.
“We were working on behavioral control, emotional control,” said Cindy Priester, the Education Program Coordinator at the Elizabeth Lee Black School. “He had a hard time forming relationships with his peers … one of the first things he said [when he started] was ‘I want to make friends.’”
Josh also needed to work on his academics when he came to the Barber National Institute.
“His academics were in the lower range. He was struggling with finding words,” Priester said.
The faculty in the Elizabeth Lee Black School began working with Josh on communication, behavior and academic goals, and Josh began making strides. He participated in activities, he made friends, his behavior improved. Soon, Josh was progressing in just about every area.
“His behaviors were under control. He was able to tell you what he wanted and what was wrong and what upset him. In his academics, he [progressed to] reading chapter books, so his progress really was extensive in almost area.”
With that, Josh continued to dream about going to Central Tech, and soon after the start of the new school year, he began to slowly transition to the new setting. After an initial visit, Josh began attending classes at Central Tech a few days a week. By the Christmas break, he was ready to move into his new school.
Before leaving, Josh reflected on what he learned at the Barber National Institute and how he had changed over the last several years.
“My day is good now and people really like me,” he said. “Because, really, people really like a nice person.”
Josh’s successes at the Barber National Institute have translated well to Central Tech, as homeroom teacher, Andrew Kovacs, recognized right away.
“From the first time he came here I could just tell – the way he comprehended, the way he was reading words – that he would do OK here,” he said. “He makes friends with the kids and does well socially.”
Josh is also doing well in class. His social studies teacher, Stephen Musone, said he has been impressed with Josh and is glad to have him in his classroom.
“I’m very pleased with Josh’s transition to school here. He’s done a great job,” Musone said. “He participates in class, he’s always involved in discussion, I see an interest in what we’re talking about … I can tell he’s happy to be here.”
And on one particular day, as Musone taught about Leonardo da Vinci and other Renaissance artists, Josh listened intently and volunteered information that he read in an assigned passage. After their discussion, Musone passed out a worksheet about da Vinci for Josh to work on with a classmate. After looking at the paper and his book, Josh looked back with a brief, knowing smile before beginning to answer the questions.
It is a fun day, and Josh Napierkowski is right where he wants to be.