By Cindy Adams


Three siblings, three very different kids. Parents know this truth. Educators do as well. Their similarities point to family; their distinctions reveal personal journeys. The Martin-Kelly kids, Miriam, Gabriel and Kevin, share a home and a school. They are similar in that all three struggled in the traditional classroom, and all three now attend Harrisonburg Minnick. But they are distinct individuals, so they are intentionally receiving tailored academic experiences. And it is working.

That’s the beauty of Minnick.

Miriam is 17 years old and struggles emotionally. Her mom explained that her daughter's expression of the reality around her was not working in traditional school and resulted in her being moved into a residential program. She is now trying again at Harrisonburg Minnick where, so far, she has been successful. She is experiencing independence, learning to manage her emotions, and demonstrating innate creativity.

"I was so pleased that the Minnick team was willing to give her an opportunity," said Miriam’s mom, Jennifer. "Because they acknowledge that every day is a new day, they are making it possible for her to get to know herself and grow as a person."

Jennifer's second child, Gabriel, is 10 years old and, while he is a little more settled than his sister, he has his own challenges. Still, he has thrived at Harrisonburg Minnick, particularly responding to the out-of-the-classroom experiences where he can interact with others and give of himself.

"Let's face it, society is not kind, especially to those who are struggling," Jennifer said. "But the Minnick teachers are courageous. They take the kids out of the classroom and make sure they have those important life experiences. They do not limit them, regardless of the additional challenges."

Jennifer's third child, Kevin, is 8 years old, and very proud to be Harrisonburg Minnick’s school ambassador. He greets visitors and often takes them on tours of the school. Each time, he kindly introduces himself in the same way: "Hi, I’m Kevin, spelled K-E-V-I-N." And he instantly refers to the visitor as his "new friend." An undeniable welcome.

"The teachers look at each child individually and find ways to encourage their uniqueness," Jennifer said. "For someone, like Kevin, who is struggling with social interactions and how to interpret the world around him, this opportunity is life-changing."

Jennifer explains that all her children have what she calls a "neuro-divergent, psychological uniqueness" and she is certain that meeting them where they are and loving them for that uniqueness is what makes all the difference.

That's Minnick.

"Where there is that kind of compassion, it should be celebrated," Jennifer said. "To take on the role of teacher and role model, and to stay positive for kids who are working through significant issues deserves applause."

Jennifer always tells her kids that everyone is working on something, even adults. Sometimes it can be seen, sometimes it can't, so grace needs to be extended to everyone.

At Minnick, we wholeheartedly agree.