NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Aiden Kozik knows what he needs to do to succeed: Be prepared, be respectful, cooperate in the classroom and finish what he starts.
That was the message he gave, along with Director Jodi Drury, to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and dozens of officials and educators who turned out for the official opening of the North Berkshire Academy on Thursday morning.
“I like this school because my friends are here, because it lets kids take pride in school and learn to be a responsible person by working hard each and every day,” said Aiden, from the speech he wrote.
Polito congratulated Aiden and the coalition that put the academy together using a state grant through the governor’s office.
“It takes leadership in a community to identify a problem or a challenge, to come together as leaders … to decide how you want to resolve that problem and then us, as state leaders, to work with you and invest in you, because we believe in you,” she said, adding “your mission is about the fact that every, every student has the ability to learn. That every student has the opportunity to succeed. It’s pure and it’s good and it’s absolutely right on.”
Just three months old, the collaborative special education program is already successful — if Aiden is any proof.
Once a “worst-case scenario,” said his mother, Kelly Kozik, he was doing well at another program but now he’s really blossoming at North Berkshire with an A-average.
“He’s come a really long way,” she said. “He struggled through the years with the problems that most kids with disorders and learning disabilities have. … He loves school, he misses school when he’s on vacation.”
The academy wants to continue to build that confidence in its students, said Drury. “We want to help more kids and we want to help more schools do better work with these kids.”
The academy opened in the North Adams Armory on Jan. 2 along with the North Adams Public Schools’ E3 Academy, an alternative high school program. It began as a conversation over a cup of coffee, said Superintendent Barbara Malkas, and came to fruition through the efforts of the city, the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District and Northern Berkshire School Union, the Berkshire Educational Task Force, Northampton’s Collaborative for Educational Services, and a state grant of $148,000 to make it all happen.
And it did. In less than eight months.