The L.I.F.E. Academy (http://www.goodwilllifeacademy.org) is a tuition-free Lee County public charter school for middle and high school students with intellectual disabilities.
In the school’s seven-year history, the Goodwill L.I.F.E. Academy has awarded Special Option diplomas to seventeen students. Until now, the school’s largest commencement ceremony had honored just four graduates. The 2012 graduating class included eight students.
“All graduations are special, but this one was even more so.” says Kirsten O’Donnell, Director of Public Relations for Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, which operates the charter school. “One of this year’s graduates has been attending the L.I.F.E. Academy since we first opened its doors. Watching her cross the stage was definitely a bittersweet occasion.”
Stephanie Arapian, James Chang, Tiffany Chantaca, Jeffrey Grainger, Savannah Hadsock, Amanda Hoyle, Brittanie Jennings, and Travis Watt each received their Special Option diplomas from Dr. Joseph Burke, Superintendent of the School District of Lee County.
Not everything was perfect at the 2012 graduation ceremony. An air conditioning issue left the Edgewood Academy auditorium uncomfortably warm and stuffy.
“It was definitely hot in there,” says Goodwill Community Relations Coordinator Madison Mitchell. “But the moment was so special that you barely noticed.”
With just over 40 students enrolled at the school, the L.I.F.E. Academy graduated nearly a fifth of its student body in 2012. The school is currently accepting students for Fall 2012 enrollment, and Principal Lynn Pottorf welcomes the opportunity to open the school to new students in the coming year.
“Over the past seven years, we have watched these students mature from young teens to young adults,” Pottorf explains. “It is so hard to let them go, but so exciting to know that they are well prepared for their post-school experiences. And now, we look forward to starting new students on a wonderful LIFE Academy journey.”
The Goodwill L.I.F.E. Academy’s curriculum is designed to help transition young adults with developmental disabilities into post-school adult living. The school's curriculum provides training in life skills, functional academics, and vocational/workforce skills. The school also offers a vocational training program, which promises its graduates employment after graduation, either with Goodwill or a community-based employer. So far, four students in the class of 2012 are looking forward to new jobs after graduation.
For more information, contact Goodwill L.I.F.E. Academy principal Lynn Pottorf at (239) 334-4434, or visit the school’s website: http://www.goodwilllifeacademy.org.
The Goodwill L.I.F.E. Academy is a program of Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc. More information about Goodwill's programs and services in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties is available at http://www.goodwillswfl.org.