HOLYOKE — LightHouse Holyoke, Personalized Education for Teens, recently celebrated its annual Raise Your Glass event at Mill One at Open Square in Holyoke. LightHouse is a personalized middle- and high-school alternative now in its eighth year in downtown Holyoke.
LightHouse maintains an innovative collaboration with Holyoke Public Schools through Opportunity Academy, where students earn credit toward a Holyoke High School diploma in a program modeled after University Without Walls at UMass Amherst. The partnership allows a limited number of Holyoke Public School students to attend LightHouse along with privately enrolled students. LightHouse is accredited through the New England Assoc. of Schools and Colleges.
At the annual Raise Your Glass event, speakers included musician, performer, and LightHouse graduate Nehemiah Caradwyn; Liam Russell, a current privately enrolled student and graduating senior; and Damasco Santiago, father of Jhaydon Santiago, also graduating this year, who is enrolled through the LightHouse partnership with Holyoke Public Schools.
Santiago shared his personal story of growing up in Holyoke and unsuccessful experience with Holyoke Public Schools, including a moving account of significant challenges he overcame throughout his life. His story included watching his son, Jhaydon, encountering similar challenges as he navigated school.
“Then we found LightHouse,” Santiago said. “At first, I wasn’t so sure it would work for him. It was so different from regular school. Now I see how much it helped us. Jhaydon was able to learn at his own pace in his own way. Now he is already taking college classes, and he will graduate in June with a high-school diploma. LightHouse saved him.” Jhaydon is one of about 30 students who currently attend LightHouse through the school’s partnership with Holyoke Public Schools.
“We have a great working relationship with Holyoke Public Schools,” said Catherine Gobron, co-founder and executive director of LightHouse. “We are not aware of any partnership like this anywhere, between a public school district and a self-directed private school like ours.”