Parents' letters to their students become a teaching tool about support at Anderson Co. alternative school; principal: wanted youth "to think about your parents and what they've written"

Anderson News, Lawrenceburg, Sept. 28, 2016

Parents share feelings through letters
Apex Academy students receive personal notes from home
By Chanda Veno

When Steve Swank comes up with lessons for his students at Apex Academy he often has to think outside the box. That’s exactly what he did when hecame up with his latest idea.

“Over the summer, I was watching a documentary on ESPN about a high school football team in Hollywood, California. These kids came from tough backgrounds and didn’t have a lot of support at home,” he said.

So during the first week of school, Swank and his staff called each of the parents of his students and asked them to write their child a letter. He didn’t tell them what to write, he simply left it at that.

“All the parents participated. Some turned them in the first week, some just this week,” he explained. “But they all got a letter from home. The parents were great about it.”

As the letters came in, Swank collected them. They remained sealed. He didn’t read them ahead of time. Last week, the students (who did not know about the letters in advance) were presented with the letters written by their parent(s). As each student opened and read the letters, some chuckled nervously, while a few others shed silent tears.

When they finished reading, Swank asked the students what they learned.

“I don’t expect you to share these. They are from them to you,” Swank stated. “I want you think about your parents and what they’ve written.”

Roughly half of the students said they were surprised by what their parents had written to them.

“I liked my letter. It was thoughtful and I appreciate it,” Corey Roberts, an 11th grader, said. “She said some things she doesn’t usually say in person — like how much she loves me and how she wants me to succeed.”

Ninth-grader Luisa Carbajal was also pleased with the letter she received from her mother.

“She said that she loved to watch me cheer, dance, sing and play-fight with my dog. I help her with everything and she appreciates it,” she explained with a smile.

Asked how she felt after reading her mother’s words, Luisa said, “I wanted to cry tears of joy.”

Olivia Tuttle, a 10th grade student, said it felt good to receive the letter.

“She told me to be confident in myself and making the right decisions,” she added.

A few students said they would consider writing their parent(s) a letter in return. This is exactly what Swank had hoped for — an open line of communication between the parents and their children.

“Keep these letters,” he told his students. “When you get home, I want you to thank your parents for taking the time to do this."

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