“We want what every other kid wants, each and every day; to go to school, learn, study, make choices, make mistakes and then move on to the next grade.”
Powerful words of inclusion from Zoriah, an 11th grader at Mt. Pleasant Blythedale School, during the middle/high school Moving Up Ceremony in June. Zoriah is not only a student, but also a patient at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y. where she receives intensive therapies for a traumatic brain injury sustained after a drive-by shooting in Michigan.
This story of tragedy and triumph is one of many at Mt. Pleasant Blythedale School – a special act school chartered to serve the highly specialized needs of the patients of Blythedale Children’s Hospital. Since 1971, the facility has supported each patient’s continued education while their body heals with the goal of producing contributing members of the community.
“Instead of being home or in a hospital bed, students have the opportunity to go to school and socialize,” said Griselda Reyes, principal of Mt. Pleasant Blythedale School. “We’re the normal in a child’s life as they recover from a medical situation.”
Pre-K-12th grade students from the tristate area and beyond, attend classes as inpatients or day hospital patients while receiving rehabilitation and medical care from highly skilled clinicians at Blythedale Children’s Hospital.
“Together, we provide the medical coordination for our complex children as well as their educational needs,” said Mary Didie, MD, Unit Chief of Blythedale’s Day Hospital program. “As partners, we enable our children to be the best all-around kid they can be – physically and mentally.”
Vanessa Villa, mom of first-grader Amillion (nicknamed “Mimi”), whole heartedly supports this special partnership because of the the help and huge strides she has seen in her daughter.
“The interaction with the staff and her classmates really helped lift Mimi’s spirits after the amputation to make her feel more comfortable and thrive,” Villa said. “It’s a miracle because I was told she may not make it, she may need more amputations or she may have brain damage; but now she’s tying her own shoe with one hand and even helping other kids — she’s an inspiration to me and everybody else.”
Similar sentiments expressed by Sofia Cespedes, mom of longtime Mt. Pleasant Blythedale School student David, who will be moving on to his community school as a second grader in the fall.
“My son has cognitive delays and low muscle tone due to his genetic condition, so he was able to receive occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy while at Mt. Pleasant Blythedale School,” she said. “We’re sad to leave, but because of the hospital-school partnership his muscle tone increased, he’s cruising with assistance, expressing himself and that’s all due to how attentive, patient and loving everyone was with David and all the kids at Blythedale.”
Those feelings were all on display during the three Moving Up ceremonies for approximately 150 students, of all grade levels, at Mt. Pleasant Blythedale School, including families, friends and staff.
“It’s always moving when you see a student arrive in September, not able to do many things, and come June, they’ve regained some of those abilities,” said Reyes. “When we give you back your child, they’re ready to move on to the next grade level and face any challenge or obstacle in front of them.”
Congratulations to the students and families at Mt. Pleasant Blythedale School on their achievements!