We recently caught up with 2017 graduate Ryan Flanders at Rock City Coffee. This hot spot in downtown Rockland operates as an employee owned cooperative, so not only does Ryan work there, he is part owner, too. But that’s not the only success Ryan has had since graduating. He also told us he’d been swimming almost every day this past summer. Why is that such a big deal? Because Ryan’s graduation project was to overcome his fear of water.
In his own words:
As any student in Passages knows, in order to graduate you need to complete your Passage Project. The Passage Project guidelines state a project must be something personal, and meaningful. I have an intense fear of water. I chose to focus on learning to swim for my Passage Project. At first, I imagined that I was being too self-indulgent, too greedy. I thought that to choose something personal was to take advantage of the program for personal gain. While technically, that’s not wrong, now that I’ve started, I understand an entirely new side to this project, and its importance. I chose a fear. It has ruled my summers, time at pools, and prevented many good experiences. I enrolled in a 6-week swimming class as part of my Passage and until I entered the water, I doubted myself completely, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I was nervous, but I had fun, which hadn’t happened in many years. I was able to push myself, just a bit farther than I expected, and that’s incredible.
Without Passages I probably wouldn’t have ever faced my fears and I never would have had the support network that the school offers. It’s a small thing, but in a few moments I proved more to myself than anyone or anything before had. I’ll be forever grateful to Passages for this. It’s just another testament to the fact that this isn’t just a high school.
Like my peers, I was going through a very tough time when I enrolled in Passages, but the teachers never gave up on me, and the message that has been driven over and over into my head by this program is that, “I can.” That’s a big thing.
When we sat down with Ryan earlier this month, he told us he plans to go back to school to study mental health and human services. He also told us why he enrolled in Passages in the first place.
Regular high school was hard for me to focus on-- too many students and I just had a lot of trouble with anxiety and it didn’t feel like an environment that really cared whether I did well or not, so I dropped out. Then I found out I was going to be a dad and to prepare for that I enrolled in Passages. Passages was a very nurturing program -there was a lot of understanding and flexibility. It was very empowering. In traditional school if you don’t fit the model, you’re kind of excluded. Passages is very rewarding and confidence building. The gift of being able to have your diploma is really invaluable. I could write 1,000 essays for supporting Passages and it still wouldn’t be enough to show my gratitude.