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Craig Celebrates 2019 High School Graduations

July 04, 2019

Graduation season takes on a whole new meaning for Craig Hospital and its School Program. This spring, 24 Craig graduates crossed stages across the country to receive their high school diplomas. Craig Hospital's full-time teacher, Laura Magnuson, M.Ed., and her colleague, Cory Wendling, a part-time teacher, celebrate each one of these accomplishments.

Craig's School Program

Craig is one of just a few rehab hospitals in the country with its own School Program, made possible through generous donations to the Craig Hospital Foundation; 100% of the school program is funded through donations. When teens who have sustained a spinal cord and/or brain injury are rehabilitating at Craig, as soon as they are able, they have the option of resuming their studies (Craig sees patients as young as 15 years old). Students learn how to build upon strengths, access their curriculum in innovative ways, self-advocate and gain self-confidence – all while earning school credit!

Laura and Cory work closely with the student's home high school to get them back on track at a level of engagement appropriate to their ongoing rehab. They also work with each patient's care team, which includes physicians; physical, occupational and speech therapists; the Assistive Technology Lab and more.

Some of the highlights of the 2018-19 school year include:

Statistics

Following are just a few of the stories of our amazing students:

Grant, Laura and Sami Bayless. Sami earned her GED at Craig in January 2019.

Grant Trent, who sustained a spinal cord injury in a motor vehicle accident, was at Craig in the fall of 2017. While he was at Craig, he was active in the Teen Rehab at Craig (TRAC) program. An avid golfer and fisherman, he was able to continue to enjoy these activities through Craig's Therapeutic Recreation outings. Grant's parents, Scott and Tammy Trent, wrote a heartfelt letter to Craig and all of the caregivers, expressing their gratitude for the TRAC program and for Laura and the School Program. He graduated on time with his class, with honors. "Craig Hospital and the TRAC and School Program have been tremendous blessings in our lives," Scott's parents say.

Brooke Bearden sustained a stroke last fall and spent months at Craig. Not only did she graduate in May, she caught the ceremonial first pitch before her high school's softball team. When she first arrived at Craig, she couldn't speak but she could sing and say "Mom." She worked closely with music therapy and assistive technology while she was relearning to speak. She was able to earn English credits at Craig for her work with her speech therapist. She took advantage of several therapeutic recreation outings while at Craig and even went ice fishing. When Brooke returned home, she was able to finish her senior year and even went on the senior trip to Florida where she climbed 147 steps to the top of a lighthouse. Named prom queen by her class, she plans to come back to Craig this summer for more therapy, taking a gap year before starting college next year.



Graduate Jake Heinen

Jake Heinen, 18, was involved in an auto accident in March of this year, when he sustained a seizure. His friend, who was in the passenger seat, tried to grab the wheel and steer but the car veered into a tree. Jake sustained a spinal cord injury in the accident and came to Craig for rehabilitation. He dedicated a lot of time during his month at Craig working to make up some school credits in addition to healing from his injury. While working with Laura and the School Program, he was able to complete four classes and take his finals, which gave him the credits he needed to graduate on time with his class this spring.

"Laura brought something out in him that wasn't there before – she was very understanding. She really heard him," says Jake's mom, Jennifer. "This experience has changed him in a good way – he is more outgoing now, and he wants to go back to Craig and be a mentor to new patients."

Mitch Lukes sustained serious injuries while mountain biking in Canada. He spent months in the hospital recuperating, including time at Craig Hospital, rehabilitating from the brain injury he sustained in the crash. While at Craig, in addition to his daily therapies, he was able to resume his studies with the help of Laura and Cory. He eventually returned to Ponderosa High School in Parker and graduated on time with the rest of his class. He was a commencement speaker and has plans to attend Montana State in the fall.

More 2019 Graduates

George Carpenter - Sidney, Montana

Justin Thorn - Ankeny, Iowa

Craig Foundation Support & Scholarship

In addition to donors providing 100 percent support for the School Program through the Craig Hospital Foundation, another ongoing opportunity is available as well. The Harry Hahn Craig Alumni Scholarship Fund allows Craig graduates to apply for college assistance. Dr. Hahn was the medical director at Craig from 1979-1985 and recognized that education was one of the key factors determining a graduate's future success and life quality. Contributions to this fund provide financial assistance with tuition and books for college education. According to Laura, more financial support to this fund is needed to better support the growing number of applicants who apply each year. "We wish we could provide larger scholarships for these students so they can pursue their educational goals."