Testimonials

Parents’ Stories

Chris & Kaycie
Caleb, Grade 6

Caleb has friends he shares life with, they laugh and tell stories and play games and look forward to seeing one another; in public school he was butt of every joke and the child other children hid from while out in the community because he “was different.” Caleb has found academic success in areas where he is able to succeed and found support and encouragement where he is weak. BHA has brought hope and peace into our life.

Two weeks into the transition from public school to BHA, Caleb had a “meltdown” of substantial proportion. The administration and staff was concerned and immediately reached out to us but addressed the situation from a standpoint of helping him not punishing him. This built trust with Caleb and reassured us that we had found a place that he could belong and thrive.

We spent years, 5 to be exact, floundering and fighting for our son in the same public schools that our older two sons had thrived in. He was battling not only academic hurdles bit was being tragically harmed emotionally from the social interactions of the other children and often adults. Caleb didn’t want to go to school and we received calls weekly, if not daily, regarding his work ethic or behavior. He spent much time under his desk hiding from the taunts and overwhelming stimulus of his classroom. At the last IEP meeting I attended, 4 adults spent an hour and half telling me everything he wasn’t doing and couldn’t do. Here was not discussion over what he was capable of doing or what he could or was doing. Public school was failing him. We moved to BHA that fall and he literally runs to school every morning from the car, he has friends that he is eager to spend the day with and meet up with outside of school. He is succeeding at school, making a’s and b’s, working above grade level in many areas and receiving support in the areas in which he struggles. BHA has given him his future back, which has given us hope again!

 

Laura
Corbett, Grade 4

My son had gotten to a point at his previous school where he would go to school and be unhappy by the end of each day. It did not matter what a great morning we had, by pick-up, he was unhappy and did not enjoy school anymore. My son no longer hates going to school every day. My son talks about his friends at school and what they are all working on in class. He is excited every morning to go see his friends and talks about working to earn his rewards. He is achieving academically and socially. Seeing my son happy to go to school has been life-changing.

I was not expecting the teachers and staff to be so helpful. When we sat down at our first teacher meeting, my son’s teachers wanted to know how they could best teach my son and they came to the table with ideas on how to help him learn. The transition from public school to private has had its difficulties, but the staff at BHA has helped. they have tried techniques help my son transition and been open to my ideas and helped me formulate a plan to address problem behaviors.

 

2015-2016 Parent
Grade 8

We have loved being in a school where everyone is struggling with something. It’s nice not having my son be singled out, but being in a community of students who understand that some things are harder for some people than others. The acceptance of his limitations by his teachers has made life in the classroom so much easier.

The smaller class sizes BHA offers means that teachers have the time to patiently help each child reach his or her best. They understand that there will be areas of learning that take longer or require a different approach and they are given the time and freedom to teach things in different ways that will reach every student. The administration at BHA has been invaluable. The compassion and unwillingness to give up on my son is priceless. I really don’t know where we would be without Benton Hall. I know for sure we would be more frustrated, afraid and worried.

One year, our family was going through a lot of personal transition. Change doesn’t work too well for kids with Autism. My son was acting out in class over seemingly minor things, having a harder time than usual keeping up with his things, and just generally being disruptive. In a typical school environment, I would have gotten phone calls every day about behavior issues. At Benton Hall, the Dean of Students let my son spend time in his office every day. It just so happens that my son likes anything methodical and counting coins is soothing for him. The Dean was bringing in large bags of pennies for my son to go through every day to help calm him and refocus his energy. I can’t imagine another place that would invest that kind of time or energy into one child.

Benton Hall teachers have also looked for ways to give my son opportunities to mentor and lead. In a typical environment, my son is never the leader of his peers. He was always picked last for every team and sometimes excluded entirely. At Benton Hall, the teachers find ways for him to mentor younger kids, call on him in class when they know he knows the answer, and give him ways to succeed publicly. I can always tell when this has happened during the day by the way he holds his head when he gets home from school.  

Benton Hall Academy is a God send for any family who has struggled with typical learning environments.  

 

Hayley
Shayla (graduated) Robby (Grade 12)
  1. My kids have become more independent, serving as advocates for themselves. 2. My kids have learned how to reach out to others for assistance and not depend on their parents for everything. 3. My kids have learned to enjoy school and learning because they are in a protected environment. 4. My kids have formed friendships with peers that are like themselves. 5. My kids have formed a sense of belonging to a larger community other than family.

Both my kids share bonds with the teachers and staff. My daughter is in college but still visits BHA whenever she can to “check in” with her BHA family.

We moved from Tullahoma to Murfreesboro in order to find resources for our kids. The thought of sending my kids to a public school terrified me and I wanted my kids to have all the advantages they could possibly have. Sending my kids to BHA was the best decision I ever made for my kids. My daughter is taking college courses at Lipscomb University and my son is also college bound. None of this would be possible if the school had not had such high expectations, even higher than my own. I am so pleased with BHA and what they have done for my kids. THANK YOU

 

2015-2016 Parent
Grade 9

As a family, every night was a battle in our house. The homework load at the private school we were attending was overwhelming, and the classroom environment was both academically and socially stressful for our son. When looking for other options, we were loathe to find out about the poor quality of public schools in Davidson county and the other private schools were either too expensive or had the same stressors as did the current school.

A good friend recommended Benton Hall Academy to us, as her son was very similar to ours. We texted the headmaster (which in itself is amazing that he was reachable and immediately responded to us) and set up a visit and shadow the very next day. We visited and realized that this was the school for us! He fit in right away with the students there, and the workload was extremely manageable. Gone were the nightly fights. Returning was our laughing son at dinner.

Thank you, Benton Hall!

 

Emily and John
Evan, Grade 5

Benton Hall Academy has given our son his love of life and love of school back. He went from a sullen, depressed and discouraged 8 year old who was constantly receiving the message that he was bad, never being praised for what he did well to a bright-eyed, smiling and eager to please 10 year old. The 2 years we’ve been at BHA have changed us as a family and has given Evan the experiences that all children should enjoy. He’s made true friends, felt genuinely loved and cared for by his teachers and he loves his school.

As parents, we were used to the mid-day phone calls to report a problem, the car rider line glares from frustrated teachers and the constant meetings to discuss behavior issues. Life as and BHA parent is vastly different. We no longer get those calls, glares or meetings. We hear praises for our child that no one had ever taken the time to notice. They notice he has compassion for others and a desire to help others succeed. There are too many to list, but a favorite positive experience we’ve had with both the teachers and staff is having them tell us how proud they are of our child’s progress and improvements.

We heard about Benton Hall from a friend, one that lived 4 hours away from us. She told us we needed to bring Evan to BHA, that her own child’s life was being radically changed and improved by being there. We lived in Mississippi, very close to the Memphis area, and I told her, “that’s great but we away aren’t moving”. At the time, we were homeschooling our son, a band-aid solution to the lack of compassionate education options for our ADHD, Impulse Control disorder, gifted learner child. I quickly figured out in that one year of homeschooling that I was not the teacher Evan needed and I knew there were educators out there somewhere that could understand him, be patient with him and challenge his very quick mind so he would not be bored and uninterested in learning anymore. We’d prayed for a solution since he was 4, and now that he was approaching 8, it seemed the solution was going to come at a great cost. After one visit to BHA and being given a tour of the very tiny school, meeting Jimmy Purcell, seeing the kids happy faces and watching these special teachers with those children, I drove home and told my husband, “we have to move”. I saw the potential to free my son from the prison of isolation he’d made for himself. It has been very difficult to uproot, move away from all friends and family and start life over. It has been worth it and we only wish we’d known about Benton Hall Academy sooner.

 

Kristin
Elijah, Grade 7

Thankfully- it was after the school year ended and after we knew we were moving to a new city and a new school that I found it. It was in the back of a notebook I found while packing up his things. He had drawn a picture and above it was the word PRESSURE. It was a drawing of himself sitting in a school desk, writing on a paper, sweat on his forehead, and a teacher standing before him. She was pointing at him with a scowl on her face. To say my heart sank to my feet is an understatement.

It had been a rough year for sure, and we were thankful it was over. We were thankful for our unexpected move to Nashville and that, for one thing, it was delivering him from another place where he was a square peg and they tried desperately to pound him into a round hole. You know, like all the other good boys and girls. This happened to be at the end of fifth grade, but the pounding actually started years before, when he was three years old. In a three-day-a-week preschool.

After an extremely rough kindergarten year in a public magnet school back home, which was one of our best options at the time, I homeschooled him for the next two years. Thankfully, he remembers those as good years and remembers me as a good teacher. But having a fourth child at the start of his second grade year combined with attention issues was just too much and we put him in a small classical school in third grade. At that time we also found out that our son not only has ADHD but also an Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger Syndrome. This small private school was a good fit as far as class size, but as the curriculum grew more and more difficult, his frustrations grew bigger and harder to handle. By the fifth grade, most of his afternoon until bedtime was spent wrestling with homework. It was heartbreaking, so imagine how I felt when I found the drawing?

I firmly believe one of the many reasons for our move to Nashville is because our son needs Benton Hall Academy. From our very first tour of the school, I knew full well it was the right place for him. My square peg son sits in classes with other square peg students, and you know what? Each square is a slightly different size. But at Benton Hall, there are no round holes, no one-size-fits-all, and no pounding of the pegs. Just typing that out, I am breathing yet another huge sigh of relief. My child has found a place to belong. A place to learn. A place to grow. And my mama heart has found relief.

My heart sinks again now, but for a different reason. It’s not because my child is overwhelmed by school, it’s because I am overwhelmed when I wonder about the future of our school. Elijah is in seventh grade and is thriving. He used to be the most challenging of our four children to think about through the high school years, because before we found Benton Hall, it seemed overwhelming and impossible at times to know what school would best fit him. But in Benton Hall we found a place where we feel confident he can stay and thrive all the way through senior year and even beyond, because they work to help families with a transition plan for after graduation. Except that now we don’t have a building to move forward in after this school year and we are left wondering what will happen.

“Our children are not a blank slate awaiting our pen, but are a written book awaiting our study.” —Max Lucado from Cure for the Common Life

This quote reminds me of how the students of Benton Hall Academy are approached by the faculty and administration. They have no preconceived notions or one-size-fits-all plans. They meet each child where they are and then together make a plan for each one with an eye toward the future, but the heart firmly in the present.

2015-2016  Parent
Grade 8

After traveling a scholastic journey that included 5 years at Currey Ingram, a year of a homeschool learning differences tutorial program and an attempt at a private Christian school, we arrived this fall after the school year began, on Benton Hall’s doorstep. We were panicked, hurting and rejected and we needed a soft place to fall with low stress and full acceptance. We found that at Benton Hall and with James Purcell. The process was manageable and the transition was simple. My son lost a great deal of academic ground in the year he was in the tutorial and in no time, Benton Hall had him in a structured, appropriate setting where he was learning again. I’m not gonna lie-I’d love to decorate and paint and make an inspiring atmosphere for the kids and staff, but I would imagine that the new location will be wonderful.

 

Tricia
Lucas, Grade 8

Lucas had been diagnosed with Asperger’s in the fourth grade and was doing well at his elementary school.  When he had to move to middle school in fifth grade, it was a disaster.  He was so unhappy, and hated going to school.  Had problems with being bullied, and was completely overwhelmed.  We decided to look for something that would be a better fit for him.  We talked to Benton Hall before his sixth grade year and decided to send Lucas there because it sounded like what we were looking for.  Believe me, it was the best decision we could have made for him.  He loves it and looks forward to school starting each year!  He is now in the eighth, and says he wants to graduate from there.  Can’t say enough about how wonderful the staff and faculty are.  They are so dedicated to our children.  This school is perfect for kids that have issues with larger schools.  They get the same education, but in a smaller environment that suits their needs better.  So happy we found them!

 

2015-2016 Parent

BHA has positively affected our child and our family because we don’t have the homework battles, our family life has improved and there’s less stress in our home. My son’s outlook toward school and learning is so much better. My son knows he’s a little different, but he feels accepted at Benton Hall.

Even though my son had an I.E.P. for Autism/Asperger’s and ADHD in public school, he was suspended for making “social mistakes” related to his disability. The teachers and staff at Benton Hall know how to work with these kids and not be so reactive; they understand the underlying issues and really care about these kids. The lower teacher-student ratio makes it possible to stop and help a student work through a problem.

Unless you have a child who doesn’t fit neatly in a box, you simply don’t get it. You can’t, you haven’t been there. But at Benton Hall, I feel like I am among friends….other parents who’ve watched their child struggle to fit in. There’s no judgment, we just want our kids to love learning and feel good about themselves – their quirks and all. And believe me, we all have quirks.  

 

David and Gail
Chapman, Grade 8

We are so excited that we have been able to afford to place our son, Chapman in Benton Hall Academy so that he has an environment that he can actually learn, function and flourish into a productive, self confident teen.  I have to say that it has been at great sacrifice and each year, we have to examine our budget to see if we can continue what we have begun here.  Before Benton Hall, his nerves were shot by the time he made it home.  It was chaos every night.  Now  when he comes home at night, he is a joy to be around!

Like so many kids that attend Benton Hall, our son is adopted.  So many of these children come from past that haunt them like his and it is a must for him and for our family unity that he goes to this very special school because he has Extreme Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Attachment issues which cause a whole myriad of problems for the school and us as a family to deal with along with ADHD and more. He now requires 11-12 hours of sleep nightly to even function on an even keel.  Pause and think about what these diagnosis really mean.  Extreme Anxiety alone causes the child to be on edge and causes confrontational issues galore.  PTSD is what the soldiers come home with and they have all sorts of problems functioning.  Some can’t even hold a job or school and their families split under the stress of the PTSD. Every student that goes here has special needs, but friendly, caring Benton Hall staff are ready to make accommodations for each individual student!  Other schools may have caring staff but their size makes it impossible to meet the needs of each special kid.

Since counseling is needed for so many of these kids on a regular basis, and we go 3 times per week, Benton Hall structures their classes to accommodate for this.  That has been wonderful to keep the homework down from missing school.

He is a smart kid but because of the diagnosis that he suffers, he just can’t function under the stress and extra stimulation of large classrooms and busy hallways, and the homework demands of the average school.  Even though he is a very good kid, the large P.E classes and busy hallways overexcited him and caused him to get into trouble.  The homework load caused undue family stress for all of us as well as tears nightly!  To our relief and his, that has gone away since attending Benton Hall!

I must add that Benton hall does not dumb down the curriculum.  They just keep it manageable by cutting out the busy work!

We drive 45 minutes each way every day for our son to attend.  I know there are others that drive even longer distances.  I empathize with families who do not have a school like Benton Hall near them or who can’t afford to send their kids here.  Now that my eyes have been opened, I see so many kids that would benefit from this school but their families just can’t afford to send them.

My hope is that the future will bring donors who regularly donate large and small amounts to help make Benton Hall affordable for all who need this school!   

 

David and Catherine
Gavin, Grade 6

BHA has positively affected our child and family because:
1.Gavin has not only started making good grades, but he is very proud of this accomplishment and continues to work hard to maintain the good grades.
2. Little or no homework has caused Gavin to actually enjoy school and our personal relationships at home have drastically improved because of this.
3. With this new positive attitude toward school, he has become a more responsible person, not only with his academics, but his personal life as well.

The teachers have a personal relationship with the students and truly care about them. They have tremendous patience.

We used to spend 4-5 hours every night doing homework, and it was causing Gavin to hate school and also causing a strained relationship in our family. All of this has changed for the better.
Benton Hall is a great investment!

 

Steve
2015-2016 Parent

BHA has positively affected our child and family because it has:

  1. Brought stability and structure to our son’s daily life.
  2. Given him a challenging yet welcoming scholastic experience that has pushed him far beyond what “he” thought his limits were.
  3. Helped him to develop self-confidence.
  4. Inspired him to think about the next step in his life and career.
  5. Provided opportunities for him to serve his fellow classmates and community and begin to see the gratification and fulfillment that comes from those endeavors.

“Mr. Jimmy” has had an immeasurable positive impact on our son’s life. He became a trusted source of inspiration, correction, and love.

In our son’s early school experience (primarily public schools) it was a constant parade of incidents and ordeals. I remember the pain and anguish I felt as many mornings he would lay on the floor in front of my wife and beg and cry not to have to go to school. We both knew that he had to go, we both knew that it was the right thing to send him…but it was heart-breaking and ultimately it was impossible for him to learn in an environment that he hated so. Once he found BHA, that all began to change. For the first time in his life, he looked forward to getting to school, to catching up with his friends, to share what he had done over the weekend or break. For the first time, he took interest in helping at school, in volunteering for tasks, for helping with younger students. Has the experience been perfect and without incident; no, and no teenage experience EVER will be. However, I don’t want to even begin to think about where he would be scholastically or socially without the blessing of BHA in his life.

 

Tom & Nicole
Klayton, Grade 8

BHA has positively affected our child and our family in the following ways:
1)Klayton enjoys going to BHA and is eager to learn

2) Klayton has made friends at BHA

3) Klayton has progressed in his academics

4) Klayton feels comfortable at BHA

The teachers at BHA are truly dedicated to teaching the children. They go above and beyond to help each child to grow and learn. They provide a classroom environment to make learning fun and educational.

Klayton has always struggled with learning challenges. The public school system was inadequate to meet his needs. It was a true blessing when we were referred to BHA! The school immediately saw his needs and worked eagerly to meet them. Within a short time Klayton was comfortable and excited to go to BHA. Since his first day at BHA we have watched our son grow academically and socially. Klayton wouldn’t be where he is today without the dedication and love he receives on a daily basis from the staff and teachers of BHA!

 

Debbie
Justin, Grade 12

BHA has provided me with a piece of mind, knowing that Justin was in a caring , learning environment. He was liked and supported not only by teachers, but the students.

Justin has been given many opportunities at Benton Hall. For two years he played on the school basketball team. His musical talents have been encouraged here. Justin was given the opportunity to sing at the prom. He also learned to play the keyboard. Last year, Mr. O’Brien, suggested Justin take piano lessons. He believed he had a natural talent. This past September, Justin started taking piano lessons. If Justin had been at any other school, he wouldn’t have been given these opportunities.

 

John and Carrie
Evan, Grade 7

BHA has positively affected our lives because of our child’s improved self esteem, we don’t do homework around the clock, a network of parents with similar issues, has created peace and calm in a space that used to be filled with anxiety. Teachers take the lead on educating my son; they do not expect unfinished work to be made up at home. He feels successful in school and in life!

They want my child to learn and they know it is their responsibility to make sure that he does! In my son’s former school, all unfinished work would come home at the end of the day. He was “left behind”… didn’t get it at all, and no one seemed to notice until they brought out the grade book. Then it became our family’s problem to figure out why he wasn’t learning in the classroom. At Benton Hall, they pay attention to each piece of work my child is doing. They work with him to know that he understands before moving on. They use alternate teaching methods if they see that he is not understanding what he is doing. When my son started at Benton Hall, he had struggled with math and reading since he started school. He just didn’t “get it”. About 2 weeks after he started at his new school, we were shocked when he cut up his pancake one morning and started talking about fractions. He knew fractions! He learned fractions in 2 weeks?!? We had been struggling with him for 2 years! When we asked the teacher how this magic happened, she simply explained that they cut up fruit, talked about fractions as they did it, and then ate it. My visual learner picked up on fractions because she made it interesting and gave him something he could hold and see. What a concept!

Our son is the smartest child we know. He has a brilliant mind for engineering and understanding the physical world and how it works. But he also has deep learning differences in language processing and has a poor working memory. He is very different from his peers socially. He doesn’t fit the “mold”. Prior to enrolling at Benton Hall, our son felt like a misfit and did not feel smart or capable. He had given up. Every afternoon after school, we spent hours on homework just trying to keep up. He had no time to be a kid. We were a very frustrated family.

Benton Hall Academy has been the solution to many frustrations for our family. It is an intimate environment – a family – that works hard to understand and to know each child. Immediately upon arriving at Benton Hall, our son started to become himself again. He WANTED to go to school. He felt accepted. He looked forward to Monday mornings! Benton Hall helped us to find our son again.

The teaching staff at Benton Hall tosses aside the “mold”. I see that they really want him to learn and they celebrate with him when he succeeds. They give him many opportunities to demonstrate his knowledge before grading his work. They have removed the pressure to “get it right” and have introduced the concept of learning what he can, learning from his mistakes, trying again, and knowing even more in the end. Homework only comes home when absolutely necessary, which isn’t very often. He has his childhood back and we can enjoy each other again and be a family.

Now we look back at our journey over the last 3 years and see giant strides in our footprints and are amazed at our son’s progress. He is learning, he feels good about himself. What more could a parent want?

 

Cathy
Sarah, Grade 10

Sarah feels safe at BHA. She is more confident. She makes awesome grades now. Sarah has friends now. I know Sarah is understood, accepted, and supported by the teachers and staff. Also, at BHA she is specifically taught how to be successful academically according to her learning style. Sarah is learning about her behavior and social skills. She practices these important skills daily with her classmates while having the support and guidance from the staff and her teachers.

The support staff acknowledged Sarah’s desire to have friends and was positive about her success. Made me feel like they really cared for my daughter.

Sarah has always been misunderstood and judged by kids and teachers alike. She has said to me she “I actually feel like the teachers at BHA really care about me and are proud of my good grades.” “I like having group meetings and having a counselor to talk with when I need it.”

When you first meet Sarah one sees a beautiful, energetic, smart, sweet and very talkative young lady. The reality is that my daughter perceives and processes her world around her differently than the majority of kids. BHA understands this and embraces Sarah’s differences. She is given individual help and provided the opportunities to learn how to be successful both academically and socially.

2015-2016 Parent

BHA has positively affected my child and my family in the following ways:
My daughter feels good about what she has accomplished at BHA.
Our family is celebrating her success.
BHA has been able to help her succeed when public school could not.
She is now receiving A’s and B’s instead of C’s, D’s and F’s.

The teacher’s work with my daughter very closely to determine her particularly style of learning. They know from student to student what works best for them and celebrate the successes.

My daughter had struggled in school for years until she began attending BHA. Now, she is succeeding and doing well. They know how to accommodate the teaching to her style of learning. My daughter was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and is a success story.

 

Thank you for giving me some peace
Watechia Lawless, parent of 7th grader

I have to admit that I was on guard waiting for something to happen because of what has happened in the past. We will have a great start and then I would hear things like ” You should send him somewhere else”, “We can’t help him” or “We don’t have time to work with him”- my heart would sink and I would feel so alone and helpless because I truly felt that I was doing everything I could to help him. I knew how wonderful he was but no one else wanted to take the time to find out.

Now, I think I can relax. I see a difference in Akile. He smiles and he wants to go to school. He seems more at ease and able to be himself. Even this weekend, he had three friends from Benton Hall at his birthday party and that has never happened. Every parent that I have met and talked to from Benton Hall have all been lovely. It feels odd and wonderful to have people who know and understand our situation.

I love Benton Hall because my son loves Benton Hall. Thank you all for being there, for doing what you do, and for giving me some peace:)

 

A Mother’s Story
By Vickie Mercado

As my son, Danny, walked up to the podium, my heart was pounding. As he began to clear his throat, over and over, I wondered if he could do it. I wanted to get out of my seat to help him, but I realized he had to do it on his own. I also realized that the staff seated on the stage would not let him down, as they had not done for nine years. They would be there for him if needed.

My tears were flowing as Danny began to speak. The gym was silent as everyone strained to hear his very quiet voice. His voice became stronger as he went on and I was astonished at how great a speaker he was.

This was my “little” boy, the one they said would never talk or read. Here he was dazzling the audience with his words and his delivery. When he finished, I was astonished to see that there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. And he was given a standing ovation.

Benton Hall Academy did this for us. If we had listened to the naysayers or had put him in public school where he likely would have been put into resource classes, we would never have seen this. Danny is now attending classes at Columbia State Community College. The transition has been rough, but because of coping skills he learned at Benton Hall Academy, Danny will make it.

 

Zoie’s Story
By Susan Passi-Klaus

Benton Hall Academy was our last resort, and our second choice. I first opted for the prettily packaged school a few miles away. It looked like a well-endowed private school should look and it bore the name of a reputable and wealthy supporter. It had all the bells and whistles, including horseback riding lessons, fancy field trips and polished long hallways leading to well-furnished rooms. It smelled of new books and new opportunities. It also cost money we would never have.

Benton Hall Academy, on the other hand, was not a particularly pretty place. Yes, it had been used and re-used. Layers of years showed under thicknesses of paint. Old carpet. Old furniture. Old books. Old bathrooms. But, just like they say of old houses – the school had character. And there was nothing “tired” about the people who filled its hallways and classrooms. The staff and teachers, and of course the students, generated a welcome spirit and youthful enthusiasm that more than made up for what Benton Hall Academy lacked in visual appeal. It didn’t take long before the school began to feel like a lived-in, loved-in home instead of a polished, but impersonal model school. And Zoie, who was about to leave a brand new high school facility at her other school, didn’t seem to mind Benton Hall Academy and all it’s bumps and bruises.

Zoie decided to begin the New Year of 2003 at Benton Hall Academy – despite an insensitive goodbye from a misguided counselor at her old school, “Oh Zoie, you don’t want to go there. You’re too smart. You’re not like those kids.” Sometimes I’m grateful my daughter chooses not to listen well.

Like my daughter, Benton Hall Academy is different. Its true colors, like hers, are revealed from the inside out. No, there’s not a lot of extracurriculars, but Zoie sometimes stays after school just to talk for hours with her favorite teacher.

No, there’s no Homecoming affair, but there is a prom and all high schoolers are invited (or cleverly coerced) to attend – despite the size of their prom dress or the size of their teenage bank account.

And no, there’s no marching band, but there is a rock/jazz band where rebel Zoie has been able to march to the beat of her own drum set.

Zoie is happy at Benton Hall Academy. She feels safe there. Loved there. Accepted there – just as she is. (Not to mention, she’s giddy that there’s rarely homework).

Each year, each teenage passage, we see Zoie moving closer to understanding the responsibility she has to live up to her artistic and intellectual potential and calling. And more and more, with each hard lesson learned, we are seeing that at Benton Hall Academy Zoie has begun to recognize and connect with a world outside of her. Her world is no longer “me” vs. “them.”

Would we have chosen to travel – beside our daughter – on a road so far off the beaten path? With its twists and turns and uphill climbs? No, it wasn’t the path I imagined our daughter would choose to take. The other parent’s grass always looks greener, doesn’t it? But when I think back to where we were and how far we’ve come — I thank God for the journey.

 

Lizzie’s Story
By Elizabeth Hackett

Benton Hall Academy is not a fancy place. There are certainly not many bells and whistles of a huge campus with state of the art anything. It is a very plain school and gives the appearance of old and worn. But when you have a child that has stepped into an abyss and needs to find a way out, Benton Hall Academy is the remedy cure.

Our daughter was at the end of her rope. She felt bad about herself in every way. She was so unhappy with life and we did not know where to turn. Lindy Sayers, who is a friend and at the time a school counselor, told us about Benton Hall Academy and suggested that we take a look. Once inside the school, you begin to notice lots of smiling faces and lots of warmth. The small classes were just what Lizzie needed. It took her a while to feel comfortable with the school and herself, but she began to appear happier and more energetic.

She graduated from Benton Hall Academy four years ago as the Valedictorian and won the Thomas Hart Benton Academy Award as the most outstanding senior. Lizzie has since graduated from Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia and plans to attend Loyola College in Chicago this fall. She is getting her masters in Social Work.

Benton Hall Academy gave her a sense of purpose and the strength to overcome obstacles that once upon a time seemed insurmountable. She has grown into a mature and lovely young lady. We owe so much to Benton Hall Academy. There are many young people that will benefit from Benton Hall Academy and as a parent I can honestly say that we will always hold a special place in our hearts for the staff and the school. Benton Hall Academy saved our daughter’s life and taught her compassion for others. To me as a mother, there is no better lesson.