As teenagers streamed into the Leesburg Boat Club, it was tough for heads not to spin as if on a swivel considering the chocolate fountain, trays of cookies, and other yummies that adorned the banquet spread.
Yet, despite the array of sugary treats, Thursday night was bittersweet.
It was the last night for students attending the 2017 edition of Summer for Success, the multi-week college immersion program developed by Beacon College to be on their own away from home and hanging out with new friends they made along their summer journey.
However, for the 58 students who studied hard, played hard, and stuck out the entire three weeks, the evening also provided acknowledgement of the strides each student had made in learning strategies to manage their challenges and proving their stick–to–itiveness.
“In imparting my last piece of wisdom to you,” began Andrew Marvin, a Beacon graduate and now assistant director of admissions, “I want to say that I love this program because it’s not something I had.”
Marvin excelled in high school and scored well on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Yet, after he enrolled at the University of South Florida, his academics tanked.
“I just didn’t understand that it was an environment that didn’t cater to how I learn,” he said.
An environment that Marvin said he later found at Beacon, the first college or university accredited to award bachelor’s degrees primarily to students who learn differently.
An environment that this summer allowed students to give Beacon a trial run, but also provided tools that they could carry elsewhere and succeed.
“I really feel that in the last few weeks you learned a lot about that it means to be a person with [learning disabilities] LD and ASD [autism spectrum disorders],” Marvin said. “From the alumni to you, congratulations on your accomplishments.”
Rashad Joiner, another Beacon alumnus who served as a resident dean for Summer of Success, echoed Marvin’s message.
“It’s been a real pleasure watching you guys grow over the last three weeks,” Joiner said. “You’ve got this. You yourselves are your biggest strength. With that, take that and take what you’ve learned here to succeed.”
In closing the 2017 ceremony, and before distributing certificates of completion, Beacon President George J. Hagerty drilled down to the heart of the matter that is Summer for Success.
“You have had the real college faculty; you have had the real college staff,” he said. “Whatever anxieties you have about the future, hopefully that these past three weeks have convinced you that you can accomplish great things in a short period of time.”