Her story is one of hope, empowerment, and change. Audrie Harrison, a 2015 Batavia Academy graduate, describes the last almost seven years as her new life, and most recently, a life filled with direction, and purpose.
Harrison’s story is full of challenges. A change in her family life led to a school transfer and some behavioral issues surfaced. Unfortunately for Harrison, these issues became bigger problems. She turned to drugs as a way to self-medicate a mental health diagnosis. Problems at her home school mounted as her grades declined and her attendance became sporadic. Harrison knew she needed to make a change but didn’t know how or where to turn. A meeting with her school counselor resulted in a visit to the Batavia Academy. As soon she met with Rachel Slobert, Batavia Academy Principal, Harrison knew this was a school where she could succeed.
“I was in a rough time in my life. I didn’t have good supports and wasn’t making good friends. I knew that I needed to make a change in order to graduate high school. When I first met with Ms. Slobert, I knew I could trust her. The small class sizes and relationships that I developed with teachers were just what I needed,” Harrison said. At their meeting, Slobert welcomed Harrison and she knew that this new school was an opportunity to make positive changes in her life.
Over time, she developed better relationships with friends and grew to trust her teachers as they encouraged and motivated her.
“I really felt like we were a family. If one student had a problem, we all knew and were there to support each other,” Harrison explained. “Our class was so small, we were able to really get to know each to other.”
Slowly, Harrison’s attendance, grades, and behavior began to improve.
“I grew academically because teachers held me accountable. I was able to focus more. And my teachers really kept an eye on me. If I was falling behind, we were able to talk about and fix any problem that I was having,” Harrison said.
At the end of her junior year in the summer, she took her required English and US History Regents exams but, unfortunately, she failed. While she was trying to walk a better path, addiction and mental health concerns continued to interfere with Harrison’s growth. An arrest for possession of drugs opened her eyes and it was the catalyst for her decision to get help.
“My peers and teachers knew I was struggling but they didn’t know the severity because I was really good at suppressing my emotions. I was 17-years-old and I knew I needed to make a change. I knew that my actions were hurting my family and I knew that I didn’t have many choices available to me,” Harrison said. “I was told by my principal that I needed to get help.”
She entered an in-patient rehabilitation facility and completed a six-month treatment program. During her treatment, Harrison stayed on track and was able to complete her school work. She passed her Regents exams and returned to the Batavia Academy to graduate on time with her classmates.
“I passed my exams with flying colors. This proved that the drugs and mental illness had affected and impacted my attendance and schoolwork,” Harrison said.
Since then, Harrison has remained drug-free and on her path of recovery. She lives independently, works part-time to support herself while she attends Genesee Community College. She’s set to graduate with an associate’s degree in 2019 and plans to pursue a career as an alcoholism and substance abuse counselor.
What’s most important about Harrison’s story is that she never let these challenges define her.
“At graduation, Mr. Schultz gave me a compass. This was a symbol and a way for me to know that I can go anywhere and I’ll never be lost,” Harrison said. “I know that when I was at the Academy, I was in a tunnel. I had teachers and staff to help me but I needed to find my own way,” Harrison said. She believes that the reason she graduated is that her teachers, and principal believed in her.
“I’m so grateful for their encouragement and support. Now I’m my own person and I can see the light.”
The Batavia Academy provides a small, nurturing environment, which gives each student the maximum amount of attention necessary to improve academic and social skills. Programs have been specifically designed to provide an educational option for students from our component school districts in grades 7-12 whose needs are not met by our traditional secondary schools. Teachers assist students in attaining a high school diploma by maintaining the same academic requirements as home schools.