From the New York Times 1/23/10:
“A gritty industrial patch of a blue-collar Chicago suburb seems an unlikely setting for the pioneering curriculum at Morton Alternative High School. The program, which combines intensive psychotherapy with conventional studies to help gang members and emotionally troubled teenagers finish school, has reported promising results and has attracted the notice of educators nationwide.”
In addition to my six children and four grandchildren, each fall over the last six years I adopt another 50 kids at Morton Alternative School (MAS) on the west side of Chicago. A friend once remarked, “Maybe you were put on this earth to raise kids!”
“My kids” at MAS are students expelled from the regular high school for aggressive behavior, drugs, or gang activity. Most have experienced serious trauma at home or on the streets, and all suffer from severe anxiety and depression.
However, once in the safe and responsive environment of school, they’re all, well, good kids—great kids actually, like mine at home. Yeah, they struggle, can be provocative, sometimes get arrested, but trust me, they have the same ambitions, adolescent angst and longings you and I had. But, they need help moving forward—the kind of help and support most of us received from parents, family, teachers and friends.
Most importantly they all make use of the treatment we provide each day right in school—school being an “essential other” in their lives. Through the Analytic Service to Adolescents Program (ASAP) we created through the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis www.chicagoanalysis.org) four years ago, all 50 students each year receive psychoanalytic group treatment, and another 30 have received individual psychoanalytic psychotherapy since we began.
How quickly are students engaged? When one of our therapists was slightly late for the second session, the student looked at her, then at the clock, smiled and said, “You’re five minutes late.”
How immersed? Two years ago, “Stephanie” said, “I wouldn’t have been able to be a mom and graduate if it wasn’t for this group.”
Or, as “Mike” said during one group session, “Doc, this might be the only place in the world I can chill without weed.” Mike went from being a drug dealer to being a “Student Leader” while working 20 hours a week at a paint store after school and on weekends.
At our parent dinner last spring, one parent stood up, and in tears said, “I want to thank the school because my son is graduating. You saved his life.”
But my kids at MAS need your help. Although we receive foundation support, we exist because of the generous support from individual donors. $50 pays for one individual weekly session; $500 for 2 ½ months of treatment; and $1600 for one student for the school year*. Think of it—one school year of therapy for a student who would otherwise never have access to dramatically change the course of his or her life. That’s not hyperbole. Statistically, many of my kids will not survive their 21st birthdays.
Our goal is for all 50 kids to have access to at least one individual treatment session each week in addition to group. Your contribution will make that happen. Any size donation will help. Then “my kids”at Morton become your kids too.
If you’re not sure about it, call or email me. Better yet, come and visit us and see for yourself.
Thanks ahead. With warm regards for a safe and healthy school year…………..Mark
Mark D. Smaller, Ph.D.;
Founding Director, Analytic Service to Adolescents Program (ASAP)
*Donations by check should be made to: Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, ASAP Fund
Mail to: Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis
Attention: ASAP Fund
122 S. Michigan Avenue #1300
Chicago, IL 60602