Seventeen remarkable young people graduated from The Fedcap School in a ceremony on June 14, 2022. This year’s class continued an exceptional metric of success for The Fedcap School—100 percent of enrolled students have graduated over the past five years. All of this year’s graduates are either starting jobs or going to college.
Many of the students are the first in their family to graduate from high school. One graduate, a young woman who joined the school at 13 and is now 21, struggled hard at first but has earned a bonded security license to provide security for banks. She said, “I thought I would never make it to this day. I’m a different person now and I can hardly believe it.”
“I was especially proud of this group because they had two years of remote instruction,” said Fedcap School Director Luanne Macri. “I saw firsthand what being out of school for that long did to them, and how they regressed. They missed their friends. It was hard, and it took a while to get it all back.”
Eric Waters, Senior Director of Wildcat, a company of The Fedcap Group, gave an inspiring keynote speech to the graduates and guests. He talked about his long years of work in the child welfare system, and his current work with people who are incarcerated. Eric teaches a class at Sing Sing Prison, and recently asked his students, many of whom were incarcerated at a young age, if they had any messages for the graduates. One of the men, who has been incarcerated for decades, responded with a moving and powerful letter that resonated deeply with the graduates: “Prison is a lonely place where all your friends and even family forget who you are. Think long and hard about what you want to become, and the places you don’t want to go. Your graduation is a step in the right direction. Now prove to the doubters that you are something. Too often we lose track of who we are and head down the wrong path. The memory of today and the happiness you feel needs to be what keeps you moving in a positive direction. Don’t give up on your dreams or take your freedom for granted.”
Located in West Orange, NJ, The Fedcap School is dedicated to helping students ages 13-21 classified with cognitive, multiple, or behavioral disabilities succeed, thrive into adulthood and achieve sustainable economic well-being. Students are eligible, and encouraged as indicated, to stay with the school until age 21, so that they can continue to receive needed services. “That way, we can focus on work readiness, attitude, and building the skills needed to be successful in college or the workplace—things unfamiliar to many of our students,” Luanne said.
The Fedcap School’s graduation success rate, and the accomplishments of the job and college-bound graduates, is all the more remarkable given that all students who attend The Fedcap School are diagnosed with emotional regulation impairment (ERI), which can be characterized by an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships, inappropriate behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances, or a pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression. Abuse, incest and violence are common occurrences in the lives of the students. Many have lost family members to violence, and all have been approached to join a gang.
What accounts for The Fedcap School’s profound impact on the lives of these children, and the team’s success if helping them to graduate?
“Students with ERI are hard to manage and that makes placement difficult, so we made a decision years ago to ensure that we were a solid resource and successfully serve children with ERI,” Luanne said. “We do it by communicating, by listening and suspending judgment. It’s easy to judge based on how they talk and act, but we listen to earn their confidence, and we respect them so they will respect themselves and us. I have seen and heard things where I have to hold it together, then go find someplace to cry and shake it off. It isn’t a job for the faint of heart.”