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As a parent, you start to believe the negative things you are told. ‘Your son has a disciplinary problem.’ It added a great amount of stress and tension to the situation, where as a mother, I was labeling him incorrectly, just like everyone else.”

Not understanding a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. Sure, children are unique individuals, and when you choose to have children, you know you won’t always see eye-to-eye, but that doesn’t make it any easier when these problems manifest. As a parent, you want to give your child the best opportunities possible, and you want to support them fully in all their endeavors. So what happens when your child is struggling? What do you do when you are receiving reports of bad behavior from your child’s instructors and counselors? According to GPSEd Director of Marketing and Communications, Laura Derpinghaus, (pictured to the left) the answer isn’t always so straightforward, but listening to your child’s needs, and finding the right resources can make all the difference.

“My son, Mathew, (pictured to the right) was diagnosed very early on with ADHD, so school was always a struggle. He had difficulties focusing and staying still. He was a very active and creative child, and he preferred hands-on activities to sitting quietly in his desk,” Laura recalls. “He began to develop these stigmas – ‘the talker,’ or ‘class clown.’ Originally, we didn’t think much of it, but the further he went on in school, the more these labels became a real problem.” Fortunately, for Mathew he had a mother who took action and sought out resources to help him cope. Unfortunately, figuring out the right solution for many families comes with much trial and error.

Determined to see her son succeed, Laura enrolled nine year-old Mathew in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters Program. “It was an absolutely transformational experience for him,” Laura says. “He was paired with the most incredible mentor, who he still has a strong bond with today.” Through their experiences with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Laura and Mathew learned that there is no “right” way to approach things, least of all education. Everyone learns differently, and everyone should be able to have access to a system that fits their needs accordingly.

“An alternative education program, such as GPS Education Partners, would have been incredibly appealing to Mathew,” Laura reflects. Having spent the past three years in her role as Director of Marketing and Communications, Laura is no stranger to a non-traditional education model. “Mathew needed validation from authority figures and peers. Every kid does. A lot of our students at GPSEd are exactly the same way. When they feel recognized, heard, and understood, they open up. There is no limit to what they can achieve if they feel heard.”

Recognizing the importance of validation, and the necessity for a unique educational model that meets each student’s needs, Laura and Mathew sought out counselors and instructors who saw him for who he was, rather than who he was originally perceived to be, and that made all the difference. “Everything changed. His confidence grew. Mathew made friends, found total acceptance in his art class, and even went out for sports. He’s become an advocate for anyone who feels marginalized, and for social acceptance on a holistic level.”

“As a parent of three kids, I have seen it all,” Laura laughs. “Mathew was definitely non-traditional – his passions were more hands-on, but his brilliance was undeniable. He built his first computer totally from scratch by the age of 17. After taking a gap year, he enrolled at a local technical college and graduated as a network specialist.  He’s currently employed at NABCO Entrances and thriving.” When asked about her other children, she laughs again. “My middle son went straight into the workforce upon graduating high school, he was strong-willed and determined to forge his own path – he’s been tremendously successful. And as for my youngest, and only girl? She has taken the traditional collegiate path, starting college amidst the pandemic, no less, but she’s doing fantastic. It just goes to show, there is more than one “pathway to success” so parents must listen to their children and seek out programs that are tailored to their needs. 

If you, or someone you know, is struggling to find an educational model that fits their needs, contact GPS Education Partners, or visit our website at gpsed.org. We are committed to advocating for each student’s needs, focusing on access and equity for all our youth to succeed in sustainable careers.  

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