We are very proud of our students and wants to share their stories, activities, projects, and successes with you.

The 12 Labors of Heracles is one of my favorite Greek mythological stories. It’s about a demigod who went on a long journey to redeem himself from the errors he had made after he recovered from madness. His journey ended with him a hero who had helped others throughout his long path full of arduous challenges. I hope I have positively impacted lives along the way – during my challenges. My parents divorced when I was 9 years old. My older siblings cared for me while my mom worked long days to pay the bills. The divorce caused us to quarrel and we had a hard time getting along—but care and we are a family. My depression after the divorce caused problems along with my anger and aggression due to heavy bullying at school. ADHD made it hard to learn and I often made poor choices. Switzer staff treated me like I mattered, they gave us an opportunity to redeem ourselves and to clean off the slate for a new start. They taught us to not give up until we overcame our challenges. We are heroes too! I cherish Switzer memories filled with wonderful fun and laughter. I will use my scholarship to go to El Camino College to get an Associate’s Degree in Music and Theatre. My main goal is to entertain people and give them good memories to have for the rest of their lives. Whether using the melodies of my guitar strumming or imitating peoples.

Jake

In September 2006, I was constantly in the office for not going to class at Switzer. At my prior school I had a big problem with authority — I still do today, but I’m not as bad. I just don’t like people telling me what to do unless it is obviously in my best interest. When no school wanted me, Switzer accepted me. It was very different, mellow, and not as crowded as normal public schools. Being in a small class with a teacher I actually liked was a bit odd. I was picked on a lot at my old school, but at Switzer that stopped. I got comfortable with different kinds of people and became more active in socializing with peers. Thank you staff for sticking with me over the years – even though I treated you bad. I should have gotten me kicked out many times, but it didn’t. Dr. Foo calls me the “Artful Dodger” because of my sneaky antics, like going missing during a fieldtrip to the pier to get some lunch, and not realizing the time to go back. Dr. Foo and Mr. Hernandez were so worried something bad happened to me. Today I am personally proud of my record for the most perfect attendance. I plan to use my scholarship to go to El Camino College to get an Associate’s Degree, and then transfer to Arizona State University to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. My dream is becoming an entrepreneur and open my own restaurant business.

Matthew

Sandy was from the only white family in her Carson neighborhood. So she was the victim of gang violence and bullying. She lived with her single mom and she had a lot of fear issues. She really did not feel like she belonged anywhere. Once the staff and her mom realized she loved creative writing, it helped her channel her fear through her writing. She began to feel she was worth something. She wrote that when she first came to Switzer she felt she was a lone wolf —without a pack. But when she left she realized that Switzer was her wolf pack and she had found a group where she belonged. Sandy volunteered at the Long Beach Aquarium, and her mom got her in a bowling league that helped her socialize outside of school peers. She was dual enrolled at Carson high school and walked their graduation before coming back to walk with Switzer peers at our high school graduation. Sandy escaped through her love of books and writing. She now works at Barnes & Noble and lives and nannies her sister’s kids.

Sandy

Came to us in 4th grade from a foster home that rejected her. She was troubled and a run away. Her parents were out of the picture. She had behavior problems and she was not focused. She was angry and defiant. She would curse you out looking for a fight with anyone (even the boys). She was really angry. Her foster mom was fed up and she was moved to another foster home, but they allowed her to stay at Switzer and her new foster mother was invested in her. Camilla was turning around; she became more cooperative. She loved basketball and although she was the only girl on their intermural basketball team, she became a valuable player and the only girl in the whole league. She was an Alpha female, strong woman who found the strength to believe in herself. She had to learn about her learning disability (ADHD) and how to handle her fight or flight instincts. She became our student body president and a positive role model to encourage other students to listen better and work to solve their problems over complaining. Camilla attends our annual Alumni reunion on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. So many of our kids do not have a family, so they rely on us for holidays. She comes in a little black dress and ends up playing basketball with the kids. Camilla went on to UCLA Extension.

Camilla

Scott is non-verbal which means that he communicates his needs with gestures and actions. He is a good walker but his difficulties communicating landed him in a group home in Hawthorne. At 19 years old when Scott got to Switzer Learning Center, he refused to stay on the campus. His bus would show up on campus and he would leave campus and go to a liquor store where he got snacks and the store charged his mom for the bill. To stop the behavior, Switzer got an aid for Scott and explained that he would have to take the aid with him whenever he did not want to be in class. The aid would keep him company and keep him on campus. After that he stayed on campus and went on field trips and eventually joined an off campus work program. He learned to prepare restaurants for openings and how to clear, clean, and set tables properly. Through Switzer Center, El Pollo Inka offered to help place the students to teach them skills to use at Restaurants. Today, although Scott lives at a group home, he is 23 and still works at El Pollo Inka and greets Switzer students, thanks to the support and generosity of El Pollo Inka’s owner, Antionio Antoch. Antionio and all the companies that support our student placement give our students a way to earn money and contribute to our community, while building their self-worth.

Scott

After 20 foster homes and 19 years, Donny came to Switzer Learning Center with some conclusions he had made based on his own experience, “All mammals mothers leave them”. His mother dropped him off after having 10 kids when he was only 2 years old. All she cared about was getting drugs. He was very Argumentative and did not follow rules. He fought a lot which caused most of his movement from one location to another. But someone at Switzer told him “There is no use in looking backwards, keep knocking on the doors and someone will one day let you in”. In his graduation speech he said, “2 years ago, I knocked on Switzer’s door and they let me in. Their staff got me ready for the world, educationally and emotionally.” Sometimes Foster kids can get an allowance based on their history to not have to earn as many credits as the general public to graduate. But Donny refused any allowance and took the more challenging course load, including School on Saturdays and a course at El Camino College in order to graduation on time. He had to work independently and sometimes required one-on-one classes. Donny set goals to become a mechanical technician and work his way through combustion engines, which he liked to fix. He was the first to graduate among his family and many of his peers.

Donny

In 9th grade Jane came to Switzer Learning Center after her parents separated and she lived with mom and Grandma. She became very depressed with low self-esteem, a weight problem and she felt worthless (emotionally wrecked). She took time to trust the staff at Switzer who worked to help her change her opinion of herself from not academic to think of herself as successful. By improving her self-esteem, her academia thrived. However she did not think she was worth being someone’s friend and her role model (Grandma) did not have any friends. She finally opened up and even had a boyfriend. She also became an amazing student role model who helped other kids succeed and became very self-confident. She also became fit by starting with aerobics, dance and yoga in PE and then developed her sports skills in basketball and volleyball. She liked the social and competitive aspect of playing sports with others. She also started walking a lot and took pride in her body changes, including her strong arms that she defined with hand weights at home. Switzer helped her get a job a Ralphs, enabling her to learn to drive and buy a car. Her confidence also enabled her to reconnect with her father. She went on to Massage therapist school and made her own business card to attract clients. Eventually, she was hired at a formal spa. She has become an Ebullient, positive person who does what she sets out to do. In fact, she spoke at the Women of the Year awards in 2016 at Switzer Center thanking the staff for helping her discover her true and successful self.

Jane

Torrance adult program inherited John, after he turned 18, however they lacked the support to help him. He was limited to watching videos, lying on the ground and playing with flappers (paper noise tools) to get attention. These were the only activities he participated in each day until he came to Switzer Learning Center. He was physically too big to force to participate in outings or classes for learning, so Switzer staff began his education by taking him out on walks around their campus and in the neighborhood. They found he was afraid of going somewhere unknown, so the progress was slow and frustrating for James and his caretakers. To help James enhance his quality of life, Switzer worked hard to enable James to overcome his fears and to go on Field trips. -However, whenever they tried to take him off campus, he would flop on the ground and refuse to go. Going on a trip in their special van would take a whole day and he would self-injure whenever doing new things. Today he spends 3 days a week going on field trips and going to work at Happy Hats. There he assembles packages for kids with cancer. He also goes to the Botanic Garden to water plants, clean up weeds and help with nature hike trail management. To help his employers, Switzer provided James with an iPad communication tool. This has empowered James to expand his requests and connect his needs with words. Today he is no longer isolated and alone.

James

Coming from a special day classroom on a public school campus, Leonard was uncomfortable with the demands of his teachers. So he learned to act badly (excrement flinging). He saw that this caused others to leave him alone permanently, including being kicked out of school—which was fine with him. The staff at Switzer worked on how to eliminate this negative behavior. They tried wet clay (Play-doh) and other substitutes so he could act out, but keep the school safe. Then they learned that Leonard did not like to be dirty. They also learned that Leonard was actually terrified of going to school. So they moved him to a quiet room without demands, except to tolerate the teacher’s presence. By padding the room with roofing paper to protect the floor, they found he would not take his shoes off on the rough paper. He could not remove his pants with his shoes on, so he stopped the behavior. Staff then focused on doing connecting with Leonard, like listening to music (he liked the Beatles) looking at fashion pictures (he liked dreadlocks) and discussing interesting art & photos. He became very social, without behavior issues and developed a good sense of humor. Because he was actually very smart he transition to another school with a less restrictive classroom and higher functioning, more capable students—like him (Asperger’s). Leonard is thriving today. In addition to wearing noise-canceling headphones, Leonard has learned strategies to self-manage his anxieties— like entering crowded events by standing near a door to feel safe first, before moving forward to a seat.

Leonard

Because withdrawal (instead of acting out) is easily overlooked as a symptom when a student needs help, students that withdraw (often girls) are not as quickly given accommodations to help them learn. Penny came to Switzer Learning Center at 13. Similar to the character that Ally Sheedy played in Breakfast Club, she hid behind her hair and was very quiet (observing the world instead of participating in it). She was withdrawn and would not let others approach her and if they did, she would hiss like a cat to scare them off. Switzer staff observed Penny and learned that she liked teen magazines. They sat with her in a quiet room slowly inviting her to talk with them about the images in the magazines. Her curiosity led to female bonding with the teachers who eventually were able to brush and tie her hair so others could connect with her (engaging eye contact). Penny started to ask for a purse, compact and even asking about specific boys. She then joined groups and started to play with the group when she felt safe. If she did not feel safe (too loud) she would peek in and decided not to engage (appropriate rejection, instead of hissing). By respecting Penny’s boundaries, Switzer enabled Penny to learn to advocate for herself. Eventually, she was able to move out of her parent’s home and into an adult setting transitioning her into a participatory life with a sense of self and self-advocacy.

Penny

Juanito has sensory issues. When he feels uncomfortable he bites himself and hits his head on a nearby wall. This is because his brain does not bring in enough stimuli when he is stressed, so his senses are processed in a disorganized order and therefore very heightened. In his world, sounds are too loud, touch hurts and even digestion can be stressful. He overreacts to senses and requires a lot of negative sensory input to calm himself down. Obviously that caused problems at his traditional school. At Switzer Learning Center the staff charted his self-harming behavior because he was non-verbal. They found a pattern to the location that seemed to cause self-harm. By redirecting him though a different path (avoiding a noisy water cooler) to classes and recess, the self-harm stopped. Staff also added a helmet (to avoid head banging damage) with ear mufflers (reduce noise) to protect him from himself should he overreact to unanticipated noise in the future. A traditional school would never have had the resources to patiently identify the problem. Switzer also provided Juanito with an iPad (Augmentative Alternative Communication – $800) which enables non-verbal students to communicate instead of acting out— saving teachers and loved ones much frustration and time. If you would like to sponsor an Autistic Child with this wonderful communication aid, click donate above and the amount $800 and we will help another student connect with the world.

Juanito

Recently a new student with a bad mouth told me to shut the *** up. I noticed that I didn’t mind. I thought to myself, this kid is acting like a spoiled brat because he is misunderstood. Before, I would have gotten so mad I would have flipped out. I was always smart enough to go to public school. But with my very bad temper, I used to just get kicked out of one school after another. I’ve had to go through lot of significant life changes to keep a positive attitude learn to calm myself by listening to rock music. If I hear a song that is a good, I focus on the song until it drowns out everybody else so I can be in my own little world. Switzer has been an active, place with fun events like the Switzer’s Olympics at the park. It has also been educational. Next I will attend El Camino College, where I want to study astronomy because Mr. Ortiz got me interested in how small earth really is and how fascinating I find the universe. I would love to find a planet of my own, and maybe someday go live on a faraway planet.

Morty

When I was in 9th grade at a public school, I made a big mistake. During 2nd semester I was accused of taking something from another student and was threatened by his friends. So I brought a box cutter to school to defend myself. Knowing it was not the right thing to do, I told a teacher about it. However, I was arrested and sent to a mental hospital as a “danger to others.” But something great came out of those poor choices! My mom looked and found a safe choice at Switzer Learning Center. The environment was more comfortable for me to be my own funny self. I was accepted by my peers —who liked my individuality. The smaller classes & teachers at Switzer made sure I learned. So I stopped failing classes and received A’s and B’s. Switzer school has honestly changed me. Whenever I get mad, I talk to staff and they help me calm down. I don’t threaten anybody anymore. Plus Mr. Youman, taught me to play the piano, and music is now my passion. After graduation I’m going to Los Angeles Southwest College to study music and I hope to be a music producer one day.

Danny

“Today I graduate high school and I am scared of what lies ahead. I still can’t understand who I am or what I want out of life. I’m just not sure I will be a good adult, and I’m scared of letting everyone down. I fear a self-fulfilling prophesy of “I think I will fail and so I will”. . but I’m not going to listen to that little devil on my shoulder. People think that courage is about the absence of fear – but it is not! Courage is about being scared to death and still doing what needs to be done. We are all afraid, but that doesn’t stop me and the Class of 2016 – from graduating. We all have the responsibility to be the best we can be. Thank you Mr. Coffey for letting me argue with you all the time. Thank you Julian for being a stand-up guy and sitting with me through my problems. You listened to me whine about a lot of things and reminded me – “to keep cool,”& “take it easy”. Whenever I’m really uptight, mad, or too emotional; your voice of reason has a calming sensation. And here’s to Mr. G, who not only tries to be a teacher, but also tries to be a friend to all of the students. One of my favorite quotes is “the only constant is change.” School wasn’t always fun, but this diploma proves I’ve passed that trial. I’m scared facing the challenge and changes in my life. I’m not certain what lays ahead, but one thing I seriously hope for is that my future be so bright that I need sunglasses all the time!”

Albert

“Thank you Dr. Foo and Dr. Wendy for being patient with me through the years. Dr. Foo is my favorite staff because she uses all positive views and teaches me to focus on the future. She helped me earn a Star Student award in 2013. Dr. Wendy White taught me how to use photo editing. I will miss having my own desk outside of her office. I have been changing every year I’m here. This school helped me become a good person. Today, I’m respectful, gentle, and helpful, and I get along better with others. I also learned to focus on my school work . I hope that if I work hard, Dr. Foo will hire me to work next year, because I do not want to leave my Switzer home. I hope all the counselors and staff have a wonderful time on summer break.”

Jayme

“Before high school, I had not been in school since I was 12 and I was told that I would never be able to walk. I was in hospitals for 4 years and I was sent to a residential school in 5th grade due to cutting myself, because the emotional pain I had was so bad, I preferred physical pain to it. But Switzer encouraged me to come back and I found that the students and staff believed in me— even when I did not. I am 20 now and I am happy. I am so grateful for the chance that Switzer gave me and the trust Mr. Hernandez showed when he gave me my first job at the student store. I have completed my training to become a security guard and I am a security guard today. I am also working on becoming a trauma nurse. Dr. Foo says that “Can’t” is one of the worst 4 letter words because it robs you of your ambition. I became determined to be a survivor and prove to myself those people who said I can’t —were wrong.”

Sheryl

“Before coming to Switzer I went to another High School that was stressful because of my peers and constant security checks put me in detention and buried me in school work. I became frustrated and angry towards my peers and teachers. At Switzer things were simpler and I learned a lot more than I did before. The staff were a lot more lenient and a better fit for me to learn many things. They helped me discover more of my strengths and Mr. Blue believed in me and was always there for me. He knew I was honest and trusted me when others didn’t. I have a new more positive look on life & transitioning into adulthood. Soon, I start my job at a landscaping company. After I get settled in, I will also go to technical school to get certified in diesel mechanics. I plan to work as a diesel mechanic for a mainstream company until I have the means to start my own restoration shop for classic and rare cars.”

Gus

“There were many problems that held me back as a child. My parents divorced and my mom had to work really hard and leave us alone a lot. My depression was brought on from the divorce. I was angry and aggressive due to heavy bullying at school. My peers put me down a lot, lowering my self-esteem. Plus my ADHD affected my learning, causing me to screw up a lot and make poor choices. The first time, I had to leave Switzer due to my behavior choices. I will always be grateful that Mr. Hernandez gave me a second chance and thanks to the staff members and students here, I was able to feel like I mattered and belonged somewhere. This school gives us all another opportunity to redeem ourselves and to clean off the slate for a new start. The staff members get on our case every day because they know that each of us has the potential to succeed in life. They taught me to give it my best, no matter what—even though we know it will not be perfect.”

Jay

“I used to get in a lot of fights because I couldn’t control my anger. I let every little thing bother me. I used to hold everything in until I would explode in anger. This caused me to be expelled from preschool and elementary school for fighting. Then, I was accused of doing something bad in middle school by a student whose mother worked there. They pressured me so much that I said I did it —even though I didn’t. I met my best friend on the bus coming to Switzer 3 years later. We are always there for each other and to help deal with life problems together. Without my friends, I probably would have dropped out of school a while back. Mr. J. was the staff member that I could talk with about everything. He is going through a lot of similar things that I and other students are struggling through. So he relates to us and what we have going on. Plus he always knew how to make me laugh. After Switzer, I am going to work at a sulphur refinery and take online college courses to get an Associate degree. My goal is to have a career in photography, capturing the best moments that occur to share with the world.”

Tim

At Torrance High School, Eaton would do silly stuff to get attention and distract other students in the process. He was not motivated to do well in school or even to just pass his classes. He engaged in all sorts of practical jokes and inappropriate behaviors — which frustrated his school and teachers and led him to Switzer Learning Center. Eaton found that the smaller school and classes, gave him more support. Also the environment made it difficult to get away with disruptive behaviors. “The support and positive attention from staff helped me straighten up and become a little more motivated to do better in school. Granted, my only goal was to get out of high school. But I know my parents are very relieved — that at least this time — I am leaving — with a high school diploma! To Switzer Staff in general, you guys are saints for dealing with the nonsense I used to do, and the behavior of some of my peers. After this, I’m going to the military. I’m still considering my choices of which branch. Thank you Switzer for helping me mature enough that my behavior will now be acceptable in the military and every day life.”

Eaton

After his hospitalization for a suicide attempt, Tom’s old school did not know how to handle Tom. They did know that the cost of failure was too high, so they suggested he get a new start elsewhere. When he first came to Switzer Learning Center, Tom missed his old friends and his school. He really did not want to be there, but over time he realized that he could stop worrying about a lot of external social distractions and develop new connections. It allowed him to focus his time on doing what he had to do to graduate. Today, Tom’s feelings about Switzer are positive. “It helped me get done with high school and I love their great brownies on the coffee cart.” Tom also connected with his Counselor who Tom felt really listened and helped him see beyond high school to what he might be able to accomplish. He graduated and used his Switzer scholarship to attend El Camino to major in criminal justice. “I know there is a lot of crime going on and I would hate to see any of the people I care about being hurt. So I’m thinking I’d like to be a police investigator to decrease the chances of people dying by a criminal.”

Tom

“I was bullied at Banning High School so I stopped going and put down for being fatherless and ugly, for not having enough money, not wearing pretty clothes. I got trapped in a very dark place and became suicidal. I had thoughts of killing myself and I knew I would never graduate. At Switzer, I learned I wasn’t the only one who felt they didn’t belong. My classmates were dealing with similar issues. Ms. Smith has this peaceful vibe that helped me feel comfortable telling her my personal problems. My Counselor, Dr. Landsman helped me become the person I am today by helping me realize that I am valuable and I am not horrible or ugly. I am not the same depressed and suicidal girl I was 3 years ago. The staff at Switzer has helped me with their patience & understanding. I’ve matured and I like myself. I was motivated to come to school and I even graduated at Phineas Banning High School. I plan to use my Switzer scholarship to go to community college and then transfer to Cal State Dominguez to study nursing. I am currently working at Kaiser part time, and as a caregiver for a disabled adult. If not for the help I received at Switzer, I would not have had the motivation to change and become the person I am now.”

Susan

Larry, a young man on the Autism Spectrum, had been in three different placements prior to coming to Switzer. When Switzer’s Director went to his school to observe Larry as a part of the intake process, she observed Larry get into three physical fights in one day. He had no friends, was bossy, aggressive and physically assaultive. When he got too overwhelmed, he would walk off campus, leading to even more trouble. Then Larry came to Switzer. Today he is 15 and with Switzer’s guidance, Larry is learning to communicate his feelings without being bossy or physical. He works in the job program on campus and earns weekly “Switzer dollars” with which he can buy items at the “Spectorium store”. One of his favorite items is Yugioh cards. In fact, he has recently begun organizing Yugioh tournaments for staff and students to compete. He creates the flyers and tournament sign up sheets, and serves as the facilitator, teaching other students how to compete. He has learned patience and social skills and feels confident and proud. Larry has learned to channel his aggressions into a fun and fulfilling activity

Larry

Philip is a student who suffers from OCD and an overwhelming aversion to germs, which leads to a fear of being touched. In his previous school placement, these concerns weren’t addressed which led to an increasing level of frustration. The more frustrated he got, the more he would act out physically, and the more he acted out, the more his teachers tried to hold him down to avoid injury. This vicious cycle continued for years until finally, at age 18, he lashed out at one of his teachers which constituted an assault. When Phillip came to Switzer he was afraid, and had a very hard time trusting people. But Switzer’s support team respected his OCD and germ concerns and little by little, he has come out of his shell and has learned to trust again. He has had no incidences of violence and now he uses his words to convey his needs and concerns. In just under a year at Switzer, Philip is now thriving and he looks forward to coming to school, learning and being around others.

Philip

As Sara felt herself falling weightless through the air, her mind ran through all of the confusing details of her past. The fall from the top of the building was a defining moment in her life (all 15 years of it). Fortunately she was saved by a response team and a medical facility, but that was the easy part. Sara needed to understand her past and how to function in spite of it. Her learning disabilities and her social anxiety were keeping her from the joy life can deliver and she could not find hope to get her to her future. From the doctors that cared for her and a family who needed to learn her challenges, to the school she found that had an environment where she could achieve in spite of what she had grown to believe, Sara fought her way out. Her disability was diagnosed and treatment was defined and she was in a school that accommodated her challenges and understood that not all that harms us is something you can see. She is no longer lost, in fact she has graduated from High School and moved on to have a job in a community that has helped her heal. By learning about herself and how to deal with her feelings while still moving forward with her education and her life, Sara is no longer defined by her disability but by her dreams. She is moving forward with strategies she has learned to combat her past and she is happy in the knowledge that she can define herself.

Sara

Sandra was bullied and assaulted in public school. She became so frightened and depressed that she stopped going to school. Her multiple learning disabilities made learning such a challenge for Sandra that she was just barely passing and could not afford to miss the school days she was absent. Her mom worried that Sandra was falling so far behind that she would never catch up. After Sandra transferred to Switzer Learning Center, slowly but surely her depression and fears lifted and she began to make friends. She developed new ways of learning and began to succeed at school. Now Sandra is a popular student, a member of the Switzer Student Council, a published poet, and was named one of the first Switzer Star’s who was named at the 2008 Women of the Year luncheon. Sandra credits Switzer Learning Center for giving her hope and opportunities for a future that is bright and filled with possibilities.

Sandra

Chris came to Switzer Learning Center when he was only 12 years old after both his parents died. His grandparents did not know how to handle Chris’ unruly behavior caused by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), compounded by grief. After developing a relationship with staff members at Switzer Learning Center, Chris became interested in computers and liked school for the very first time. Chris graduated just as his last grandparent died, and military service seemed a logical choice for this lonely young man. One of the things Chris learned at Switzer Learning Center is that persistence pays off, and after multiple attempts, he passed the military entrance exam. When the Marine Corps released him from boot camp because he took medication for ADHD, he returned to Switzer Learning Center for help. With assistance from a congressional representative, Chris successfully enlisted in the U.S. Army and found his place in life for success. As a sergeant, he saved his men from an ambush in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal for bravery in combat. Recently he became a member of the elite U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets. Switzer Learning Center became — and still is Chris’s family and taught him the skills he would need to become a heroic member of the military. ​​

Chris

Raul was a lonely kid in junior high school. He had no friends and was so isolated and withdrawn it adversely affected his schoolwork. He was failing in public school and was referred to Switzer Learning Center. Raul discovered that he was like many of the students at Switzer Learning Center and he began to reach out to others. He discovered what it was to succeed for the first time in his life. By graduation, Raul was the most popular kid in school and the class valedictorian. Success didn’t stop there. Raul used the $1000 scholarship awarded to each Switzer graduate to go to college or vocational school to become a massage therapist. Last year, Raul came back to Switzer Learning Center with a new career and gave a free massage to each of the staff. “This was my way of saying thank you to the staff for changing my life and giving me a future.”​​

Raul

Patty was one of the first students in Switzer Learning Center’s R.E.A.L. Autism Program. At 13, Patty was terrified of the world around her; and after she was unsuccessful at each program she had enrolled in previously, her parents were terrified that she had no future. The first few days in the R.E.A.L. Program were difficult for Patty, who was too overwhelmed in a new environment to enter the classroom and screamed for hours in the hallway. Patty’s transitions were slow, but still amazing. After completing her first year in the R.E.A.L. Program, Patty and her parents returned from their first successful family vacation with presents for each classmate and staff in the R.E.A.L. Program. Patty helped choose a unique gift for each person – –quite a significant accomplishment for some one who used to be a terrified little autistic girl not able to relate to anyone. The R.E.A.L. Program completely changed the lives of Patty and her parents.​

Patty

Lenny was being home- schooled because he could not be managed in public school. His parents took the course of least resistance and often gave in to his demands to keep peace at home; but they knew this wasn’t the answer. His beginning months in the Switzer Learning Center’s R.E.A.L. Autism Program were challenging for Lenny and the staff. At first he regressed and ran through the halls screaming to retreat to the restroom when he could not tolerate being in the classroom. A staff member had to be with him at all times to prevent him from running away, disrobing, or engaging in other inappropriate behavior. The sensory integration / occupational therapy room was enormously helpful for Lenny to learn to soothe and regulate his emotions. A year later, you would not recognize Lenny. He is now the self-proclaimed “mayor” of the R.E.A.L. classroom, who greets visitors by asking their name and politely introducing himself. Lenny has made friends and participates in many community outings with other R.E.A.L. students. Lenny exemplifies the R.E.A.L. program by relating to others, controlling his emotions, appropriately expressing his affect, and learning continually. Lenny’s parents are very grateful to Switzer’s R.E.A.L. Autism Program for “giving their son back” and improving the quality of all their lives.

Lenny

Bobby told his public school teachers how stressful it was at home with his mother using drugs and her anger running out of control. His teachers were obligated to report Bobby’s home situation, and the court removed Bobby from his mom’s home. He felt overwhelmingly guilty and depressed, and after threatening suicide, ended up in the hospital. After discharge, Bobby went to live with his dad – whom Bobby thought didn’t care about him, and was sent to Switzer Learning Center. He did not trust anyone, especially teachers. In his view teachers were the ones who got him into this trouble. He could not read and believed that learning was almost impossible. Bobby’s homeroom teacher took an interest in him and helped him get the special attention he needed. Bobby has learned to express his feelings through counseling, writing, and sharing with friends and even teachers. He won a writing contest, is a published poet, and has risen to join the highest reading group in his grade. Bobby has returned to his mom’s home and has learned to turn to others when he needs help. Switzer Learning Center helped Bobby grow academically, learn to trust others, and find new ways of coping with overwhelming feelings. Switzer Learning Center made an enormous academic, social, and emotional difference for Bobby.

Bobby

Jerry was a shy and socially awkward teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome. At Switzer Learning Center, he seemed to fade into the woodwork, never making trouble or standing out in any way. On a class trip to the old Marineland in Palos Verdes, Jerry saw a dolphin show and his life changed. With the support of the Switzer staff, Jerry began volunteering at Marineland and eventually became a dolphin trainer after graduation. In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast, Jerry was part of the team that went in search of eight dolphins who were swept into the Gulf of Mexico from the Marine Life Oceanarium of Gulfport, MS. The dolphins were found and rescued just before the next Gulf hurricane hit. Jerry made a difference for eight dolphins in Mississippi and the community in which they lived, and Switzer Learning Center made a difference in the life of a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Jerry

Geraldo hardly ever spoke in class. Although he could complete his class work without too much difficulty, speaking in class was just too much for him. Even though he usually knew the answer, he never volunteered to answer questions and frequently only spoke one or two words at a time. Geraldo had so much social anxiety that he frequently hid during lunch. When it came time to graduate, Geraldo wrote his graduation speech, but everyone thought his teacher would read it for him since he would not be able to give his speech in front of 200 students and guests. The morning of graduation, Geraldo was found hiding in the bathroom, too terrified to come out. After a fellow graduate coaxed him out of the bathroom, Geraldo took the stage with his classmates. When it became Geraldo’s turn, many in the audience held their breathe wondering whether Geraldo would be able to give his speech. Geraldo went to the podium and quietly read his whole graduation speech. Switzer students and staff cheered him on when he hesitated, and they gave him a raucous standing ovation with cheers, whistles, and more than a few tears. Geraldo had done what seemed impossible, and Switzer Learning Center supported him all along the way.

Geraldo