When I attended Buxmont Academy's graduation in June 2018, I didn’t know what to expect. I'd had no interactions with the students. All I knew was that this was a small group of 6th-12th graders who were using restorative practices to learn how to better understand their emotions while achieving academically.
When I arrived at the school, I could immediately tell that this was so much more than a graduation. My limited knowledge didn’t come close to describing what these students had achieved.
The ceremony began with the premiere of “CSF: The Shortical.” This video of a short musical about their school starred the students and featured original songs, dances and dialogue. The community they had created was obvious. They had come together from different places and life experiences and created something to celebrate that. Seeing their pride in this accomplishment was truly inspiring.
After a word from the school coordinator, each student addressed the audience, reflecting on how they had used their situation as fuel for self-improvement. One girl recalled how she used to be prone to fighting and has grown to realize that not everything needs a reaction. Academic success was a common theme, and many students spoke about their newfound eagerness to participate in the classroom.
Most touching and unexpected were the strong relationships between the staff and the students. One student related how inspired she was by an intern who had been through similar struggles. Now she wants to go to college and pursue a career in social work. Another thanked a counselor who had taught him to manage his emotions and deal with them constructively. Many received awards recognizing their academic improvement. I witnessed the power of acting WITH students who were accustomed to authority acting TO or FOR them.
What these students accomplished is a testament to the power of acknowledging mistakes and building a community that accepts you for not only where you’ve been, but where you’re going. At CSF Buxmont, students can take what they’ve done, recognize their errors, and, with the help of families, friends, and staff, do their best to build a bright future. They are empowered to look within themselves for the courage to grow.
To paraphrase one student, it isn’t what happens that defines you, but rather what you do from there. I have no doubt that these students are on to better places than where they’ve been.