Derived from the Latin word for “hope,” Spero was started to help students whose mental health was the biggest barrier to school attendance. The dream was to capture students who have historically flown under the radar, quietly quit attending school, or found difficultly re-engaging after long absences. Since opening its doors in the spring of 2020, the therapeutic learning program has successfully enrolled 30 students, working with about 15 students at a time.
Spero’s unique combination of academic and mental health supports provide a safe, small, therapeutic educational setting for youth experiencing anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, or other mental health challenges. Instead of continuing to struggle at their local school, Spero Center offers a unique option for these students to comfortably return to a group learning environment among their peers. On average, a student spends between 6-8 months at Spero from referral to their transition back to their home school.
Spero Director, Jillany Wellman, recently interviewed Spero student, “Sky” (name changed for privacy), about their experience at Spero. Sky is a 15-year old sophomore who came to Spero last spring after struggling to attend high school.
Jillany (J): Why did you get referred to Spero?
Sky (S): I wasn’t showing up to school and I wasn’t doing my assignments on time. The school suggested I should come to Spero. I was feeling a lot of anxiety and lack of motivation.
J: How long have you been with Spero?
S: I started coming to Spero in Spring 2022 and started transitioning back to my home school in November 2022. My last day at Spero was January 6, 2023.
J: What has been helpful about your time with Spero?
S: The support and the learning program that was easy to keep up with, the quiet and laid-back environment that allowed me to figure out other things in my life. The staff are so nice and give a lot of support. It’s nice to have a lot of adults around who know what they’re doing. My outreach coordinator was helpful in that she kept checking on me and helped me get to school on the days I didn’t want to come. She also helped with my transition back to my school.
Inside the group spaces and classroom, students can find a place to be comfortable.
J: Do you have any favorite memories about your time here?
S: I met some good people and made some friends who had some of the same experiences that I’ve had. I didn’t have that at my old school. I also liked our movement time and being able to go on walks on the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail.
During a group activity, students collected natural items out on the Burnt Bridge Creek trail and created mandalas.
J: Tell me about your transition back to your high school?
S: I started transitioning back in November doing ½ days at Spero. I’d be at Spero in the mornings and then take the bus to my high school for the afternoon. I got there in time to do two classes – English and Geometry. At first, I was a little bit nervous, but being back in class was really nice and I realized how much I missed being there. Even though I kept up with my academics at Spero, it was nice to have the time away from my high school to focus on my mental health.
J: How do you feel about being back at your school?
S: I feel really good about it. It was a bit jarring at first. Being around so many people was nice and also overwhelming at first. It’s nice to be back with my friends. Jessica, my outreach coordinator, will continue to meet with me for the rest of the month to make sure I’m okay.
J: Do you have any piece of advice for students considering Spero?
S: Don’t hold back on sharing how you’re feeling. Show up and do your school work, but also work on your mental health.
While still completing academic work, Sky was just one of the students that Spero has helped with the mental health and social emotional support needed to transition back into a traditional school setting successfully.
How do students get referred to Spero?
Referrals come via a student’s school district. If you are worried about a student who isn’t attending school, you’ve tried multiple interventions with no luck – give Spero a call and we’ll talk with you about whether or not Spero would be a good fit. If the student sounds like an appropriate referral, we will send you our screening form and attend an IEP meeting. Our phone number is 360-949-1440, or you can email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.