Shekinah Academy: A Shining Light on God’s Beautiful Children

In Brittany Strickland, Kiddos, Leesa Wallace by Lola Magazine

Shekinah Academy is a thriving ministry for kids with special needs and their families. It is a ministry that God fashioned and pieced together more than fifteen years ago. At this time, I was a home-schooling mom of five children. I had my BA in Special Education so I was able to help other home-schooling families faced with non-traditional challenges. From this natural outreach came a phone call one day. The desperate grandmother asked if I would consider home-schooling her medically fragile grandson with learning difficulties. Immediately the Lord impressed upon me that this was the right thing to do. This led to many similar phone calls throughout the years. Shekinah Academy now serves 28 to 30 children and their families. Curriculum is tailored to meet the specific goals of the student so that strengths and weaknesses alike can be targeted. The academy is now a part of a larger non-profit organization, Shekinah Solutions, Inc. This non-profit came about through the support of parents, community helpers, and St. Matthias Episcopal Church.

Shekinah Solutions is the umbrella organization with four specific parts:

  1. Shekinah Academy – an academic setting where challenged students are given individualized instruction and the support and opportunities needed to reach their full potential.
  2. Rhythms of Grace – a church service geared towards all ages with special needs and their families. Services are the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month at 4:30 at St. Matthias Episcopal Church.
  3. Summer Day Camp – a day camp held in June and July for all ages with special needs. The main goal of this camp is to get out in the community with fun outings as well as have many fun community organizations come to us. Making friends and providing fun social opportunities is what summer is about!
  4. Shekinah Too – our new pilot program that serves special needs adults 21 years old and older with life skills training, vocational training, and community involvement.

A typical day at Shekinah Academy includes Chapel, individualized instruction in core academic areas, group work, art and life skills. You will also find students learning to be patient, loving, and kind with one another. The staff makes it a priority to turn challenging moments or “bad” choices into learning opportunities. We strive to end every day on a positive note and focus on what we have overcome, not on our failures. It is startling to see what a non-verbal student or learning challenged student can overcome when they are in an environment that fosters security, acceptance, love, and opportunities to learn in a way that works for that specific student.I have been teaching for 25 years and in 2012 received my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, as well as a certification in teaching the visually impaired. Experience has proven to me that all kids, given the time and opportunity, the necessary skills and positive attitudes, can absolutely learn and reach goals that no one ever expected. My teaching experiences have birthed a passion in me to reach the challenged student, unlock their abilities, and help to birth new understanding and skills that they didn’t realize they had. My prayer is that this passion is contagious and that parents, family, friends and others see the potential in every child.

Our dream is to create a place and a voice for the developmentally disabled. To perpetuate acceptance in our communities where those that are often overlooked are seen as valued members of society. Where those that are challenged have an opportunity to sharpen skills and be involved in their communities to their full potential. Ultimately, all these efforts will improve quality of life for all.

This beautiful ministry is not something I could have ever started or continued on my own. The staff of teachers and volunteers are remarkable. They have a passion for working with these exceptional children and adults. The families are incredibly supportive and work closely together with our staff to ensure their students are receiving everything they need. It truly is a team effort with Christ as the Leader.

I consider it an honor to serve my community through Shekinah Solutions, Inc. Truly, I learn more from my students and parents than I could ever teach them.  I embrace the challenge of finding the key that unlocks a student’s mind and begins their journey of learning and meeting their full potential. I am inspired by a great teacher, Anne Sullivan. She had a student, Helen Keller, that she saw had great potential and possibilities. Her example as a teacher has been a strong influence in my life work.

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