Help is on the way!
Help is on the way!
Community School Difference
Community in Action
The therapeutic community supports students on many different levels–the most important being relationship. Our community is a place for interaction, caring, awareness, and responsibility. Mainly it is a place to support one another. Through group interactions and positive peer pressure we bring about a healthy life style and a positive self-image.
Our primary mission is to offer love, relationship, and support to struggling young people and families. In furtherance of this we practice acceptance, respect, empathy, and boundaries; while asking all community members, from the directors to new students, to strive for a radical responsibility of themselves and the community. We know this is what promotes healthy living and growth.
Sarasota Community School is a co-educational preparatory school. Our goal is to educate and promote healthy, responsible relationships with students who cannot succeed in other public or private school settings, or in the home. We provide a structured environment and an empowering progressive peer culture that encourages troubled teens to confront the emotional and relational issues that sustained them acting out. Through self-government and community living this time-tested process helps young adults achieve their full potential. Our mission also extends to families– to help families to heal and develop healthy loving relationships and family dynamics. We strive to bring children, parents and siblings together and provide the support and nurturing required for the growth of young adults and stable families.
The purpose of any education is to prepare students to be successful in their lives and continuing education. To prepare students to be successful in their careers, to teach students to be responsible and informed citizens, to communicate effectively, and to create a basis for a desire for lifelong learning is our core mission. Of equal importance, to this population of students, is to prepare them emotionally and socially, to build a real awareness of self and the community, to develop self esteem, emotional awareness, and support the motivation for continued healing and personal growth.
Testimonials by Past and Present Students, Parents, and Faculty
I am a parent of a thirty-one-year-old autistic adult daughter. My oldest daughter is an attorney, my middle daughter has two degrees in music and is a state licensed general contractor who owns and operates her own company, and my youngest autistic daughter is a proud high school graduate and FIFTEEN year employee of Publix grocery store. Yes, I said she is only thirty, but has worked for fifteen years. That is somewhat of a success story, for an autistic, learning disabled, person with learning disability, depression and compulsive disorder. As a parent, I thought I was amazing at raising my first two children, and then Chelsey came into our lives. If it were not for Chuck and Cara Kanner, coming into our lives when Chelsey was sixteen years old, she would probably be a fifteen-year resident of some kind of lock down program or worse. As part of the program, our whole family attended weekly therapy sessions. This was a difficult sell to my husband who is Italian, from a huge loving Italian extended family and had a difficult time accepting the fact that our family situation was completely out of control, no matter what we tried to do. And Chelsey was basically an uneducated adult who could barely read and write. Today, I still quote Chuck who often looked me in the eye and said, “Pat, who are you helping, because you are not helping Chelsey.” That is really a powerful question. When you are not successful as a parent where do you turn? Public schools are not interested or equipped to deal with the needs of students and their families who are in this extreme situation. There are no dress rehearsals for life, and this window for learning to deal with life, creating healthy lifelong relationships with family as well as completing your academic education, is very limited and often too overwhelming. Enter- Chuck Kanner. His credentials and his own life story have given him the tools to help people like us. What motivates him to give endless energy, countless solutions, and never ending love and support- that is a God given talent, possessed by few. Is it always perfect and did we always follow willingly behind this great leader??? Oh, NO!! We kicked and screamed that we knew better. We argued and we cried that it was too much to expect from this poor disabled Child. But Chuck frequently reminded us that he had faith in her ability to change and why didn’t we? Currently, Chelsey can read, write and oh, yes – text! Once she learned structure, discipline and how to respect her family, Chelsey was able to progress. As an autistic adult does she “feel” things? I don’t think so. But she did LEARN to do the right things and to begin to respect people around her. Our family is intact, and we still use techniques we learned at the school. I went to college at age fifty and graduated in three years, with honors, partly because our experience at the school made me realize that learning never has to stop. Goal setting was a great tool Chuck gave to us. This goal setting enabled me to step into college. Lifelong learning continues to be part of our family life. John Dewey, one great educator says: Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. However, the teacher in the King and I written by Rogers and Hammerstein sings: By our students we are taught. Chuck and Cara embody both of these great philosophies as they nurture their students and create the environment of mutual respect; the students continue to strive to reach their goals. Spending time with Chuck and Cara would enhance the life of any troubled student or anxious parent. They don’t give up.
My parents divorced when I was two, and I spent most of my childhood learning how to manipulate people to suit my needs in a broken household. By early high school, I was using drugs, running away, and getting suspended and expelled from schools. My parents could not ground me more than they already had, and the fights I was having with them felt petty and abusive for everyone involved. As a family, we had money and comfort and I never lacked for anything, however, largely because of my behaviors, our family felt irreparably damaged. When I would go to school, I would hang out with the janitors and smoke cigarettes; kids at school thought I was a delinquent and a drug addict long before I ever touched drugs because I isolated myself from everyone. In an effort to save my life and the family, my mom and stepfather sent me to Sarasota Community School. Within a minute of walking in on my first day with my mom, a young girl ran up and gave both my mom and me a huge hug and told us how excited she was to have us there. I felt like an outcast everywhere I went in life, and immediately upon entering SCS, I felt loved and supported like I never had in my life. Here was a community of thirty kids, many of who were similar to me, all working together and helping one another. On my second day, one of the directors of the school called me and told me he knew of some of my achievements and some of the things I struggled with, and told me that he was excited to have me as part of his school and that he had faith that I could do anything that I wanted in my life and that at the school they would help me achieve whatever that was. That is exactly what they did. The next four years were not easy. I was not a direct kid; I didn’t get into trouble a lot and I stayed out of the spotlight, so the emotional issues I had were hidden many times. I was not, unfortunately, an affectionate person and I hated people touching me. Fortunately, I developed meaningful friendships and relationships with staff, teachers, and students where I began to care about other people. I made friends despite my aloof nature. Through being part of a community where all of our actions affected one another, I learned to care about honesty, compassion, responsibility, leadership, and integrity. With the help of the staff and teachers, I got to start college when I was fifteen and was three credits shy of having an AA degree when I graduated high school. I was accepted to three fantastic schools. I saw my family every few weeks, and our relationship developed from one of anger and resentment to one of love and trust. This took time and effort, but people in the community helped me every step of the way. Upon leaving when I was eighteen, I messed up quite a few times. I still had to learn lots of lessons the hard way, however, after my experiences at Sarasota Community School, I always knew that I had love, family, support, and people to turn to. I don’t always know the right courses of action, but I know how to pick myself up when I fall and I know how to bring together a positive community of people to help each other better whatever situations we may be in. Today, I am almost thirty-one. My family and I, including my estranged father, are all in solid, close relationships. I am a year from finishing a bachelor’s-masters program in civil and environmental engineering. I don’t use drugs and haven’t for a long time. I have close friends who would support me through anything and whom I would do the same for. Many of them have been friends since the day I walked into the school, angry, sad and lonely at fourteen. I have close relationships and I am not afraid to show affection. Sarasota Community School was the first place I ever felt at home. Today, I still have a home and family there. I am grateful to SCS for giving me a real opportunity at life.
This is the place where young adults can express their innermost thoughts, feelings, and emotions with acceptance and understanding. Students are loved for who they were, who they are, and who they will be. A place where lifelong healing begins. Here you can be unique without being judged.
My name is Chris Berti, I was a troubled child, wild and crazy just like my father. Unfortunately, my parents couldn’t seem to deal with me or handle me in almost any way. Part of me felt abandoned and part of me felt they just wanted to get rid of me. Which is how I suppose all children who end up in some kind of boarding school feel. I was sent off to military school at a very young age and hated everything about it. It made me even more rebellious to their wishes. But then one day I was dropped at Sarasota community school and that was the day that life started for me. That was the day I started to learn how to be around people who wouldn’t judge me or ridicule me for my feelings that would tear me up inside every day of my life. I had finally found a place I fit in. I made amazing life long friends that I still talk to all time. When I showed up there my parents and doctors had me pumped full of medications that made me not even feel human. After being at Sarasota Community School for a short period of time I was off all medications every single one of them! I felt happy again. I felt free and alive. The school gave me an enjoyable life while I was there, and we always did fun things and went cool places. We were not locked down at all. We had total freedom and real friends. It truly was my home until I turned 18. I will never forget how good our meals were, or how much fun I had. The worst day ever there was when my bears lost the super bowl to the colts! With that being said it had to be pretty great place right? I learned the steps for a man to be successful. I learned how to cook, clean, actually pay attention in class, and retain the information I was being taught. I am now 28 years old with a wife and two children. I own my house and business and live a very perfect life–and I owe every bit of it to Sarasota Community School. I would not be here today if I didn’t show up on that door step when I was 16 years old and I thank god all the time that I did. I would love to list all the amazing people who had made such an amazing impact on my life but if I know Chuck Kanner like I know I do! All the children to ever read this will get to meet every one of them.
Chuck and the school literally change lives. Many of us were not raised by people with the skills and knowledge to help us learn to be whole, honest individuals, and as an adolescent I struggled to relate with others, including my family, in a healthy way. After countless turn-ins taking responsibility for my behaviors and meetings where I faced my entire community with difficult truths, I found myself able to engage in relationships with my family based on honesty and respect.
Well you guys never did give up on me Chuck, Dave and Jeff. Times when I just wanted to leave. Saved me from making mistakes. You all have always been there for me even over all the years since. I know if I needed anything help wise all I would have to do is get in touch with you guys. There are plenty of other times you guys were there for me too. No matter how hard things were or how rough it was you were all willing to be in it with me when others would have run the other way. The family I never had <3
I had the unique opportunity to experience Kanner Academy, as both a teacher and parent of one of its students. I quickly learned that Chuck Kanner’s ability to engage the students, both intellectually and emotionally, made this so much more than a simple school-experience. This was truly a heart-experience. Chuck has the ability to connect with students – young people who never felt connected, appreciated, or encouraged, and to allow them to figure out how to identify themselves and grow into amazing adult versions of themselves. I was not only a teacher and a parent, but I quickly became a living part of the school community, which has continued to flourish in my everyday life. The community was a family, and like family, I have stayed in touch with teachers and students from Kanner Academy and see the successful lives that Chuck helped create. My time with Kanner Academy was a wonderful academic and emotional experience. Chuck knows how to reach the most distant student and communicate a better way of living and loving.