Step by step, extra effort and perseverance led to success

For some teens, graduating high school can seem an insurmountable task. Developmental disabilities, a sister’s death and other life challenges made that milestone nearly impossible for William. 

William tried his hand at several schools and never made much progress. Then he met Dohn’s Teacher Intervention Specialist, Mark Hugenberg, and everything changed.

“Our promise is, ‘If you are willing to work with us, we can get you to graduate,’” said Mr. Hugenberg. “I think Jonathan believed that, because right away he would come in two or three afternoons a week for me to sit down and work with him on the credit recovery study guides.”

In just two years—instead of the normal four—Jonathan went from no credits to two shy of graduation.

Then COVID hit.

For a while, Mark Hugenberg didn’t see a lot of the 35 students he normally assists. He texted each one weekly to touch base, encourage them to do their work and come in for study guides or to ask questions. But a few went silent.

William did not. He texted back and was excited to come in and work with Mark, socially distanced and wearing a mask. When a transportation snafu got in the way, Mark remained determined to help a motivated student earn his final credits. He wondered, “Could I go to him?”

Mark found out Jonathan lived near the Dohn campus and his mother was home in the afternoons. Mark got permission to go to their apartment and work with Jonathan three afternoons a week. In no time, Jonathan had completed the requirements for high school graduation.

“I’ve always said that the setting at Dohn works because it is smaller and more intimate,” said Mark. “I was able to provide the one-on-one assistance and encouragement Jonathan needed to finish his work. I earned his trust, and I think that helped sustain his motivation through the final stretch.”

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We are excited about new developments with our Special Education & Services Program and students. Check back for more success stories and interviews!