GCA-Lebanon Graduate Joe Hash Finds His Inner Strengths

December 18, 2020

GCA-Lebanon graduate Joe Hash

A little more than a year ago, Joe Hash became a student at Great Circle Academy-Lebanon. On Dec. 18, he made history as the young school’s first high school graduate. The occasion was filled with much emotion and happiness, as both student and staff celebrated the progress Joe has made in that short time.

Prior to his enrollment at GCA, Joe, 17, was often picked on by others because of his speech and vision challenges. True to GCA’s guiding principle as a place where no one feels different, Joe found teachers who helped him find ways to address those challenges, hone his social and life skills, and re-instill a love of learning. “I love this school a lot!” Joe says. “My favorite memory is how nice the teachers are.”

His teachers are impressed with Joe’s positive strides, says Dr. Pam Dawson, GCA-Lebanon’s director of special education. “Academically, his schoolwork and task completion improved throughout the year. Socially, he has made friends and treated all of us to his singing!”

Behaviorally and emotionally, Joe learned to overcome obstacles, especially those outside of his control. In his previous school, he would often “storm out of class, but with our staff’s help, he has made great strides in reacting to difficult situations more calmly,” Dawson says.

Helping students develop in all aspects of their life is a hallmark of Great Circle’s academies. “Graduating from high school is an important milestone for Joe, but it’s just one step in his life,” Dawson says. “He aspires to be a welder and is now working with vocational rehabilitation to secure a job and transportation,” she says.

“But to be a successful adult, Joe needs to be able to effectively interact with people and the world around him,” she adds. “We’ve seen him develop many of those skills at GCA, and we look forward to seeing him continue to strengthen his abilities.”

Dawson’s staff also knows how family support can help a student’s success. So to make Joe’s graduation special, especially during the holiday season, Dawson arranged an in-school senior photo session, which included Joe wearing his favorite striped cowboy hat which he says reminds him of the USA and how much he loves his country.

Once the photos were framed, Joe wrapped them up as a Christmas present for his mother Bobbi Jo. “He cried, I cried, the staff cried,” says Dawson. “Wish I could be there to see Mama’s face when he gives these to her.” An added bonus – the generous staff and Great Circle’s board of directors also gave the family gift cards to sweeten the holiday season.

Joe leaves GCA-Lebanon with many memories and lifelong gifts. What has he enjoyed most about the school? “People should never be mean to someone else and it’s not good to get in trouble,” he says.

And what does the staff take away from their time with Joe? “We are thrilled to see his growth and the pride he now has in himself and his accomplishments,” says Dawson. “Joe and all of our students inspire us every day. We are blessed to be able to do this work.”

Joe Hash wearing his favorite hat

Surrounded by the GCA-Lebanon staff, new graduate Joe Hash (not wearing a mask) gives a thumbs.