When he first came to Parkside from the Central Park Early Learning Center in the Fall of 2004, Andrew Isaacson ’11 remembers being a shy boy who didn’t like loud noises.
He recalls making friends in his classroom, and credits the connections he made with his therapists and teachers for helping him to overcome his early challenges. He said of Mr. Alston, “He was always there to talk to me about my feelings and support me through whatever struggles I had at a school. He was always there to have a fun time with me.” Mr. Vargas and Mr. Cruz, “with all their jokes” he said, provided a lot of support during assemblies, because Andrew didn’t like it when the audience clapped for him. Working with his teachers, Andrew came up with a plan to have people give him a thumbs up instead of applause. By the time he was performing a dance routine from STOMP during the school play in his final year at Parkside, he was widely known by everyone at school as “the thumbs up guy.”
Ms. Ament made a lasting impression on Andrew as well, because she was “a strict interpretation of what a middle school teacher could be like.” He says she taught him manners, kept him on schedule, and taught him how to be organized and handle himself going into middle school, so that by the time he got to Gateway the transition was very smooth. He had learned to advocate for himself, and to never back down in the face of a challenge. The confidence he learned at Parkside enabled him to easily discuss his schoolwork with his teachers, to ask for extensions on his assignments when he needed them, and to be more comfortable speaking in front of people. He learned to take charge of his educational journey, which eventually allowed him to transition to a mainstream high school education at York Prep, where he continues to flourish academically and will graduate this spring.
Inspired by his teacher at York, Andrew enjoys studying history, especially modern history from World War II through the Civil Rights Movement. He also volunteers as a peer tutor, helping younger students at York with their math. He hasn’t decided on a college major yet, but he counts his acceptance to the prestigious Lehigh University as one of his greatest accomplishments, and is excited to begin the next step in his academic career.
Tennis and Cross Country are among Andrew’s favorite sports, and he is active in a number of community service initiatives. Two summers ago he had the opportunity to spend three weeks as a camp counselor at a camp in Hawaii that serves underprivileged children, facilitating field trips, games and a variety of activities the children might not otherwise have experienced.
Looking to the future, Andrew has his sights set on academic and social success in college, in the hopes of finding a career that will help to secure his future and enable him to start a family. Andrew is proud of the progress he’s made since his time at Parkside, saying “Parkside is a school that will set you up for success down the road, no matter what your challenge is.”
As he celebrates his recent graduation from York Prep and begins the next chapter in his life, Andrew has the following advice for our current Parkside students: “Never back down from any challenge. Always prove your doubters wrong, and respect those around you. Be the person that everyone wants to look up to.”
We couldn’t agree more, and for that we give Andrew a big thumbs up.