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Antonio Young and seven other classmates graduated from The Foundation School in Largo, June 20, 2014. The seventeen-year-old is the youngest of his family and has two older sisters. Young was born in D.C., but his current roots are in Md. The new graduate attended The Foundation School for four years. He regards science as his favorite subject and football as his hobby. His journey to earn a high school diploma has been intertwined with challenges, although Young is humble about his hard-earned success. Still wearing his graduation gown after the close of commencement exercises, Young is quiet but in good spirits. He says that he is very happy and excited that he graduated.

“Having my family here is great. It has been great working with my therapist. She helped me to stay positive and kept me on a straight path to go where I needed to go. She believed in me. I’m hoping to get a good job and start taking care of my family like a man is supposed to do.”

While flipping through the 2014 Senior Commencement program, it becomes obvious that every graduate who attended The Foundation School possesses an inspiring story. Each of them persevered and made exceptional strides. The Foundation School has campuses in Largo and Gaithersburg. The non-profit school supports youth with emotional disabilities. Dr. John Meeks, a child psychiatrist, is the founder. The Foundation School was chartered as a non-profit organization in 1975. It is fully accredited by The Maryland State Department of Education, and the Office of The State Superintendent of Education. The school provides a highly specialized education and therapeutic program for students with emotional disabilities. Tuition is paid by the state and other local jurisdictions. Additionally, The Foundation Schools utilize creative approaches to help students like Young succeed. Compassionate advocates, advisors and teachers provide encouragement to youth who have not found success in many other schools where they were previously enrolled.

Antonio Young is an example of what can happen when education professionals and parents work together to develop solution-focused partnerships. Young stated that his best memory of The Foundation School was making the honor roll. He was the recipient of the Cliff Bivens Humanitarian Award. Staff nominated Young.

However, Antonio Young also received the President’s Education Award for exhibiting academic skills in the classroom. His mother, Deborah Young, was surprised that she was given a parent award on her son’s graduation day. Therapists selected her because she has reportedly been extremely supportive and always available. Deborah Young says that staff at The Foundation School made a lasting impression on her son. She happily informs that her son has come out of his box and grown a lot, although he has a little way to go.

“It’s been like a second family. His therapist has been like a second mom. She’s become family to us and has always been there for us. I love Foundation. I really do. I’m almost sorry to say that he’s leaving. For me, it’s been a tearful moment. I’m relieved but Foundation has been a family. Foundation really pulled him out of a rut. They’ve really been there for him.”

Theresa McAlpine is the Director of The Links Program, which is an outreach program for The Foundation School. McAlpine had been Antonio Young’s therapist the entire time he attended The Foundation School.

“I am so proud of him. This has been a long road. When Antonio first came he did not want to talk or do any work. He’s gone from that to talking now, making eye contact and he smiles. He’s evolved,” McAlpine said.

Roberta Shaw attended her nephew’s graduation. She looked thoughtfully at Young, then commented about his achievement.

“I am excited for him. I am excited for his mother. I love them both dearly. Antonio is the last of the grandchildren to graduate from high school. They all have their diplomas. They will go forward in strength, and in faith, and in joy.”