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Learning differently can be as empowering, productive and rewarding as the most traditional take on education. Just ask Keva, mother of The Vanguard School student Karisma. They are from the Bahamas, a place as close to paradise as can be for many, but sincerely lacking in help, support and facilities for children with learning differences. Karisma struggled with the basics, moving from school to school in frustration. Keva just wanted her little girl to have a chance in life. Both sought fervently for a school that would appreciate Karisma’s uniqueness.In the spring of 2016, they found this in The Vanguard School. A few months later, Karisma enrolled and started the rest of her life. Academic progress followed. Now, acceptance to Southeastern University. “One of the greatest successes I have seen Karisma accomplish at Vanguard is her independence,” Keva shares. “She has become so independent throughout the years at Vanguard particularly in the following areas: living independently and personal care, including laundry, money management, getting around, shopping, traveling to and from Orlando by herself … Wow!”

The Vanguard School

Vanguard strives to ensure each student aspires to higher educational opportunities and independent life. Source: The Vanguard School

Located in sunny Central Florida, Vanguard is an independent, co-educational boarding and day school for students who learn differently. The goal? Academic, social and personal growth of each student according to their own terms. It starts with a curriculum and accommodations, designed for each student’s unique strengths and needs. Vanguard works with the following diagnosis: autism spectrum disorder, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression, executive functioning disorder as well as specific learning disorder in math, reading, and receptive/expressive language. Whichever level they are on, each student follows an individualized pathway.

A small student-to-teacher ratio — 8:1 — enables students to get this one-to-one attention. The entire student body is approximately 120 students, a quarter of whom are from abroad. “Vanguard provides a tight-knit community of students and teachers,” explains international leadership student, Filip. “Everyone knows each other, and this helps tremendously with learning.” Here, teachers are school “mom” or “dad” and students are their kids. In this Vanguard family, values like community, leadership, integrity, empathy, and resilience are taken seriously. All forms of discrimination — on the basis of race, colour, national origin, sex or sexual orientation, marital status, age, religion, disability, genetic information, gender identity or expression, or any other characteristic prohibited by law — are strongly prohibited. There is no place for bullies here. “The Vanguard School helped my son to feel more secure because he’s not getting bullied anymore!” shares Agnes, whose son Ethan is in the Class of 2022. “He now gets to socialize with kids with the same interests he has.”

The Vanguard School

Here, students learn in small class sizes and live in a tight-knit community. Source: The Vanguard School

It is, in the truest definition of the word, home. That was what Kevin and Zolita felt from the campus tour alone. They had come from a school that had suggested putting their son Kalen in a remedial programme. Teachers there had tried to help him but did not know how. They would give him a certificate of completion, but not a diploma. Kevin and Zolita believed Kalen, who was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger syndrome, deserved more. He deserved a school where the teachers see the potential of each child and care enough to develop that potential. A school where his compassion, empathy and talent on the basketball court would be appreciated. Vanguard fit the bill. At 14, he enrolled. Grades and self-confidence improved tremendously. Self-confidence increased. “He has grown so much more as an individual, in the way he interacts with people and also the way he deals with situations,” they share. He is now on the path to reach his dreams through his recent college acceptance.

At Vanguard, friendships are fostered in and out of the classroom through athletic activities on campus including cross country, swimming, golf, basketball, archery, weightlifting, track and field, and tennis. The school also offers a diverse range of clubs such as Anime, Soccer, Gardening, Disney, Music, Archery, Fishing and Leadership.  Vanguard celebrates the diversity of learning, diversity of cultures, and diversity of individuals. As Karisma and Kalen’s stories show, The Vanguard School is a place where opportunity and interests intersect, in seemingly endless ways. Kalen has a distinct plan to attend university and major in Sports Management. Karisma is participating in numerous clubs and community service projects (Adopt-A-Grandparent, Money Management and Cooking, etc.) and activities (volleyball, basketball, Panther News, ballet/dance recitals, etc.). Next is university and a career in Early Childhood Education. Vanguard made it all possible.

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