We do not measure success by how well a student does at Cornerstone, but rather by how well we have prepared each student for life after Cornerstone. From the first day, under the guidance of our Transition Coordinator, we begin preparing each student for leaving Cornerstone. For those students returning to district, the student is “launched” with a farewell party, which tends to have both happy and sad moments, acknowledging their success at Cornerstone and saying goodbye to friends and staff. For those graduating, there is an off-site senior prom and then a formal graduation ceremony that together creates cherished lifetime memories.
Returning to District
All too often, students with significant emotional and/or psychiatric challenges leave their home districts to attend therapeutic schools, never to be seen again.
Here at Cornerstone, our mission is to return students to their home districts as soon as possible because we know that it is in their best interest to continue and complete their education there. This is why we characterize Cornerstone as a “transitional” therapeutic school and strive to return students to their district within 18-22 months of their date of enrollment.
How do we accomplish this goal? We provide a wide range of state-of- the-art therapeutic interventions on a daily basis that enable a student to be emotionally prepared to return to district sooner than ever could have been expected because of the comprehensive nature of the services. However, it is not just the clinical program that allows us to remain true to our mission as a transitional school.
Cornerstone’s dynamic academic program is also designed to ensure a successful transition back to district. Our highly individualized instructional approach is geared toward keeping students on pace with their home districts, and to remediate any content or executive functioning deficits. Moreover, when our students return to district, they are fully current with all academic standards as our curriculum guides are aligned to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. This ensures full adherence to 21st Century Learning.
Our transition efforts begin within the first few weeks of a student’s enrollment. Planning meetings with each student start with a discussion of what needs to change to achieve a successful transition. All therapies focus on overcoming obstacles that led to place- ment and strengthening the supports that will be needed to ensure success.
Our ability to achieve our mission is tied not only to working academically and clinically with individual students and their families but also to the culture within the school community that emphasizes the transitional nature of Cornerstone.
We consistently create opportunities to discuss with the student body that returning to district is the norm. In weekly student community meetings, group therapy, IEP meetings, and staff meetings, we talk publicly about this goal. Our school-wide system of developmental steps and levels is designed to lead students on the path back to district, to support the norm of returning “home”.
A coordinated transition is also necessary if returning to home district is to be successful. This typically includes 2-3 months of the student attending both Cornerstone and the home district each day. We carefully monitor the student so that any “bumps in the road” can be overcome. Once the transition is about to be completed, the student is treated to a school-wide celebration. These occasions send a clear message to students, staff, and families that Cornerstone’s most treasured mission is to return students to their “home”.
Early College and Work Study Program
Our Early College Program serves to lessen freshman college anxiety, helping ensure Cornerstone students success in college. Seniors frequently participate by taking courses at a local community college during the regular school day. They receive college credit and begin to experience the demands that college will bring, while addressing any stressors in therapy. Our early college program for sophmores and juniors have college professors coming to Cornerstone to teach selected honors courses.
For those seniors who plan to enter the work force, our focus is on work-study to help them develop the skills necessary to obtain and hold a job. Working internships in local businesses of all kinds are available to provide students with a “real-life” work experience that builds the confidence and skills needed for success.