By Cindy Adams


This is what success looks like. Three siblings, whose giftedness finally overshadowed their challenges, are honored. While they struggled in public school, they found success at Harrisonburg Minnick. Through small classroom victories, they reached their larger personal goals. Miriam, the oldest, earned a high school diploma. Her brothers, Gabriel and Kevin, are prepared to transition back to their home public school this fall. But, really, the success story is three young people who believe they are capable, responsible, talented individuals with much to contribute.

Miriam, Gabriel and Kevin are not unlike their fellow Minnick students who work especially hard to overcome academic or behavioral challenges. Their teachers are equally committed to helping them. And, in that intersection, is where the magic of Minnick happens.

"One of the biggest advantages we have at Minnick is the strong relationships we build with our students," said Amy Bankert, a teacher at Harrisonburg Minnick. "Many come to us lacking trust in adults and experiencing negative situations at school. We focus on building trust and fostering positive relationships. As a result, students feel more comfortable being vulnerable and more willing to work through their struggles as part of a team.”

A child holds a painted ceiling tile

The formula works. It incorporates a lot of communication and pauses throughout the day. When students face a difficult peer interaction or a challenging work situation, teachers take a break from the academics and discuss ways to work through the frustrating moment. Each time, the students gain confidence in their ability to overcome.

Success stories, like those of Miriam, Gabriel and Kevin, are now visually represented through a new tradition where students are invited to decorate a ceiling tile when they graduate or transition back to public school. The project is meant to celebrate student achievement and inspire others to do the same. Currently, there are nine personalized tiles, with names, graduation dates and meaningful artwork, displayed in the school’s entryway. As tiles are added, the hope is that they will become a source of both pride and inspiration.

"By showcasing these personalized tiles, we hope to create a tangible reminder of what can be achieved through hard work, dedication and perseverance," said Tabatha Knight, Administrative Assistant at Harrisonburg Minnick. "It’s a great way to celebrate our students in a unique and lasting way, and we see the tiles as representing the transformative power of education and determination."

A Harrisonburg student holds up his ceiling tile

Next fall, the siblings will go their separate ways, from each other and from their Minnick team. Miriam will enter a new phase of life, Gabriel will go to middle school, and Kevin will return to his elementary school. But they have experienced enough success in handling difficult situations and academic challenges, that they have the confidence necessary to be independent and to flourish in their new environments.

Miriam’s parting words to her Minnick teachers were, “Thank you, from the deepest part of my heart, for all you do and the sacrifices you make.” To her fellow students, she said, “I can’t wait to see you in the adult world one day. You all are amazing.”

Words of truth and a beautiful picture of success.