When Savannah was a young girl, she grew up in a home environment that was different from her friends’. Her father was not a part of her life. She was fortunate to have a caring mother and grandparents, with whom she lived and with whom she built healthy relationships. After she started school, she struggled in many of her classes and wondered why she felt different from other people.

Savannah knew something was not right. She voiced her fears to her mother and grandparents, who took her to her pediatrician to determine how to best help her. Savannah’s doctor quickly determined she had a number of mental health concerns, and later diagnosed her with bipolar disorder, paranoia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. By the time Savannah was in seventh grade, it soon became clear that a regular school setting was not the place for her. She frequently skipped school, and when she did attend, she picked fights with students and teachers. In 2015, Savannah was on the verge of having to repeat the eighth grade if she could not get her grades up. She was struggling to pass most of her classes, and her teachers knew she needed assistance they were unable to provide. Savannah’s principal referred her and her family to the Heartland Family Service Therapeutic School, as she felt they could help Savannah succeed. The Heartland Family Service Therapeutic School provides academic and therapeutic programming for K-12 students with major mental health diagnoses. At first, Savannah did not want to go to the Therapeutic School. She had no interest in learning and wanted to stay home. It took several weeks, but the compassionate teachers at the Therapeutic School spent a lot of time encouraging Savannah to give her new school a chance. Savannah finally decided she would go to class for one day and see if she liked it. Even though she started attending school regularly, Savannah was still uncomfortable in her new surroundings. She would find reasons to leave class so she could roam the halls during the school day. She struggled to get along with some of her classmates.

One day, the Therapeutic School principal approached Savannah and asked her if she would be willing to talk with him. Savannah begrudgingly agreed. The principal told her that everyone’s goal was to help her unlock happiness and find her path to academic success, but she needed to accept their help. His words shocked Savannah, but she took them to heart. The next day, she started focusing on learning, achieving good grades, and building relationships with her new peers. A year later, Savannah had completely changed her perspective on learning and education. She exceled at school for the next few years, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit during her senior year, she faced new challenges. Like so many other students, Savannah was forced to continue her learning from a distance, and she felt very lonely and anxious without her daily support system. But Savannah knew she could succeed, despite the new struggles she faced. By the time the school year was over, she had successfully graduated from the Therapeutic School, despite the overwhelming odds she felt were against her. Savannah continued her education at Iowa Western Community College and regularly sees a counselor to help her with her mental health concerns. She has also rebuilt relationships with some of her family members and enjoys spending time with them as much as she can. Now, Savannah can. Can what? Can anything. The answer is up to her.