Laurie Kowalski tells a story about the Brush Track team that sums up her feelings about South Euclid Lyndhurst Schools. “When my son Charlie, who has special needs, arrived at a track meet and realized he had forgotten his money for concessions, he became openly distressed. Members of the track team saw how upset he had gotten and they all ran to him opening their wallets and making sure he knew that they would take care of anything he needed. The generosity and acceptance from the students at SEL Schools has been amazing.”
Lyndhurst residents Laurie and Jim Kowalski have three children: Kristen, 23; Alex, 19; and Charlie, 18. Both Alex and Charlie have special needs. The Kowalskis credit SEL staff for helping each of their children realize a high level of achievement.
Kristen, class of 2011, is an Occupational Therapy student at the University of Pittsburgh. While at Brush she excelled at sports and academics, and thrived in many extra curricular activities. She was accepted into the OT program at Pitt as an incoming freshman– an impressive accomplishment. This summer she received a scholarship to work abroad for five weeks in New Zealand, working with adults with developmental disabilities. She will then be interning at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis and at the Cleveland Clinic for the remainder of the summer. Kristen’s desire to help those with disabilities began when she was a child, influenced by her brothers’ special needs and the diversity she experienced first-hand during her SEL education.
Alex, class of 2015, has Down syndrome, and spent his SEL career in an inclusive classroom setting. He is currently working in the community through Cuyahoga East Vocational Educational Consortium (CEVEC). This summer he is working at TJ Maxx and will be working next fall at the Mandel JCC and is exploring college options.
Charlie, class of 2017, will be starting his senior year at Brush next fall. He started his SEL career as one of the first students in the Autism unit at Sunview School, and has a special aptitude for computers and art. He was accepted into the Excel Tech graphic design program, and is exploring college options to pursue a career in a related field.
Laurie, who is employed by The Upside of Downs, (an organization that provides support, education, and advocacy for people with Down syndrome, their families and communities) serves special needs families in 16 counties throughout Ohio, and feels that SEL Schools provide some of the best special needs programming in the state. “The inclusive atmosphere and acceptance of all kids has made our special education experience exceptional. Our kids have been included not only academically, but their experience in extra curricular activities, particularly sports, has been amazing.”
Laurie credits the athletic department for going above and beyond for her children. “The coaching staff has been amazing to our kids–in particular swimming, cross-country, and track. The athletic director and staff always made our kids part of the team and made them better athletes as well. Their encouragement and caring have made a big difference in their confidence.” When asked what she wished people knew about SEL Schools, Laurie adds, “I wish that people knew what an incredible staff SEL has, and how they shouldn’t judge the schools by hearsay. All of our children have different needs from advanced classes to special education needs. The staff in the district has worked tirelessly to make sure all of those needs were met and to ensure that all of our kids excelled. People should experience the schools for themselves and they may be pleasantly surprised. At SEL Schools, there is a place for everyone.”