Storm Hendricks couldn’t be prouder of his soccer team’s perfect record. But the lessons the eighth grader learned participating in the sports program at Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School have little to do with wins and losses.
“Storm enjoys winning, but what he enjoys more is helping other kids on the field,” said his mother, Cassie Nesheim. “The emphasis truly is not on winning or losing but on how you play the game. And he gets that, which is amazing to me.”
In addition to soccer, Storm also plays flag football and basketball at Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School. The school belongs to the Chicago Area Alternative Education League (CAAEL), a nonprofit organization that provides a full spectrum of interscholastic academic and athletic programs for troubled youth attending local alternative schools. In CAAEL, good sportsmanship is valued over competition. At the end of every game, each team selects two individuals from the opposing team to receive sportsmanship ribbons in recognition of outstanding leadership and positive attitude. Team plaques and sportsmanship T-shirts also are awarded for every division in each sport.
“CAAEL gives kids who haven’t had the chance to be successful in other sports leagues the opportunity to experience the camaraderie of a team, take on leadership roles and practice all the skills we’re teaching them in the classroom,” said Kristen Jakobowski, lead therapist in the school’s expressive therapy department.
Research shows that students who participate in athletic or activity programs achieve higher grade point averages, miss fewer days of school, and are more self-confident than their peers. The same is true for CAAEL participants at Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School. Student athletes here must earn enough “points” by completing homework assignments, achieving therapeutic goals and attending class, among other duties, to participate in CAAEL.
“Especially during football season, you can be sure that Storm’s going to make his points,” Nesheim said. “It’s been a great incentive for him.”
Storm spends half of his school day at Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School and the other half at his local public school, Stratford Middle School in Bloomingdale. He first enrolled at Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School in sixth grade to learn coping mechanisms for his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other social disorders but hopes to enroll at his mainstream high school full-time. Although he also participates in sports through his local park district and other sports leagues, Storm seems to get the most enjoyment out of his CAAEL sports, his mother said, because he can take on a leadership role.
“When he’s playing at the park district or through youth football, he’s such a little fish in a big pond,” Nesheim said. “With CAAEL, he gets to be a big fish in a small pond. Both CAAEL and the Therapeutic Day School have done wonders for Storm and I can’t thank them enough.”
Designed for children with learning disabilities and emotional and psychiatric problems, Adventist GlenOaks Therapeutic Day School was founded in 1995. Elementary through high-school age (grades 3 through 12) students earn normal academic credits while addressing their therapeutic goals. Along with traditional individual and group therapy, the school uses recreation, pets, music and art activities with certified therapists to help with physical, social and emotional growth. The school is staffed by a caring group of teachers, nurses, social workers, therapists, clinical psychologists and a psychiatrist; there is one staff member for every three students.