SYF a “blessing” to Bellard family
I was challenged to write an SYF blog post about what working at SYF means to me. To me, it’s all about the students we serve. Students like Christian Bellard, who attended our Simon Youth Academy at Prien Lake Mall in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Christian Bellard has had more challenges in his short life than I can imagine. When he was seven years old, doctors discovered a huge cyst on the side of his brain. By the time he was 15, he had already survived seven brain surgeries. Just when things were normalizing, it was discovered he had myasthenia gravis (MG), an autoimmune disorder that attacks his muscles.
Christian, a top student, had been attending a well-respected military prep school, but had to drop out when he became extremely weak from the MG. A routine school day was impossible for Christian because he never knew whether he would feel strong enough to attend classes or not.
Unable to continue at a traditional school, the Academy at Prien Lake Mall came to his rescue. His mom, Traci, said the flexibility of the program was perfect. He could go in the morning or the afternoon depending on how he felt. He was able to finish his coursework during the summer of 2013 and received his high school diploma in 2014.
With the assistance of an SYF scholarship, Christian attended a local community college before transferring to McNeese State, where he is currently taking summer courses and is just shy of being a junior. Christian is studying chemical engineering, a field chosen “because, if and when, he ends up in a wheelchair due to the MG, he can still work in a lab or something with that type of degree.”
Traci talked to me about Christian and her daughter Brittany, who currently attends the Academy at Prien Lake Mall, in a recent phone conversation. She said a lot of schools see cases like theirs as “messy”. “I can’t say enough about the staff and the program. Christian couldn’t have graduated from high school without the academy. They don’t like ‘messy’ at regular school,” Traci said. “But if you don’t fit mainstream, SYF is great. It’s for kids that could drop out for a variety of reasons. It’s a blessing for our family.”