Dawson B. is a Class of 2018 Stanbridge graduate. He first came to Stanbridge as a junior high student who was bullied in public school because of his learning differences. At Stanbridge, he was able to shine, and grew into both a leader and role model for other students as a member of the STAR Student Leadership Team, a starter on our Bulldogs Basketball team, and a peer ambassador for visiting students during their shadow days at school. He is now enrolled at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz, where he is pursuing a career in nursing.
Dawson's senior year culminated with him receiving The Stanbridge Award at graduation. This honor recognizes an individual who exemplifies the qualities of a model Stanbridge student: cooperation, perseverance, determination, kindness, and respect; a student who accepts personal challenges and transforms them into strengths. Below is Dawson's story, told in his own words, taken from the text of his senior speech at commencement:
"When I was a child my mom noticed that I was a lot different from the other kids around me. She saw how I wouldn’t really talk like the others and how I acted like what others would refer to as weird, we later found out the reason why, I had autism.
"My mom and dad both helped give me the skills and activities early on though so I could be developed enough to have a productive and an interestingly successful life. But unfortunately, the other kids couldn’t understand why I was different. And when they would look at me they saw a target.
"During my early school life I was bullied, and towards the end it had gotten so bad that I just gave up on everything. Then, one fateful day, my mom finally noticed the school I had been at was eating away at me and she just pulled me out of school that very day. For almost a month, I was homeschooled until my parents found a school in San Mateo called Stanbridge Academy.
"I went for a shadow session and the first three people I remember from that day the most were the kindhearted. I immediately fell in love with the school after spending the day there and told my parents about how great it was and started attending within that week.
"I was happy at this school because the other kids were like me and were also kind, and because of this I was finally able to have friends. I also loved the teachers, I had never had teachers that cared about their students learning to the point that I have experienced here. The classes were also a great size—they were just right for effective learning—and because of these three things combined, I was able to thrive socially and academically in my new environment.
"I want to thank my teachers for filling my mind with knowledge and never giving up on me like other teachers had done before. The counselors for being there for me when I needed to talk to someone, and for giving me the social thinking classes that will help me outside of Stanbridge.
"I thank my close friends who helped me to come out of the shell I had to build before coming here so others wouldn’t be able to hurt me as badly as they wanted. I have thanks for my family as well, for seeing me suffering in the end and fighting to give me a better life, and sacrificing more than anyone should have to ask so that I wouldn’t have to be in pain. I finally want to thank all of Stanbridge from the highest ranking staff all the way down to the youngest student. You all helped me in your own ways to change my philosophy on life after I came here, to see that there was more to life than suffering and that happiness can be found.
"Because of you all, I have decided to attend Cabrillo College where I’m going to work towards earning my nursing degree, so that I can help and enrich others lives as you all have mine. I will also remember those friends who can’t be here with us now. The ones who have moved on, and have spread their wings.
"I thank you once again, because of you I will now leave this amazing place as a person I had never even thought I could be at one point in my life. All in all, I’m proud to now become a Stanbridge graduate. But, whenever I look back at my experience I look at the people and how we’ve all treated and helped one another, and whenever I see the kindness and strength I don’t just see friends or a school, I see a home with a family. So in conclusion, I’ve enjoyed being here, and if I’ll be sad about anything, it will be not that I’m leaving my school and fellow students, but how I’m leaving my second home and family."