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Achievement House Meets Educational Goals of 'Exact Opposites’

Alane Butler
DARIHUS-COTTA-SERENITY-VIDOT-FISHER-HOUSE-1A

Evita Vidot-Cotta with children Serenity and Darihus

Siblings Darihus Cotta and Serenity Vidot are each meeting their academic goals; Darihus through an Individual Education Plan and Serenity through an Honors Program.

Harrisburg, Pa. — As a family educator for Tri County Community Action Family, Evita Vidot-Cotta’s job is to instruct parents on how to be teachers to their children and connect them to available resources and programs.

Imagine her frustration when her own son was failing in public school district.

Unable to persuade the school district to test her son for learning disabilities, she finally decided to pay $2,500 to an independent educational psychologist when her son was in seventh grade. The diagnosis: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.

After years of consulting with lawyers and unsuccessfully fighting to get the services her son needed through the school district, Ms. Vidot-Cotta began searching for an alternative.

Two years ago, she discovered Achievement House Cyber Charter School.

“A flier for an open house caught my eye because it described Achievement House as a diverse school not in a traditional school setting,” Ms. Vidot-Cotta said.

I had been trying for years to find other options because of my son’s special needs. Every child learns differently, but most schools put every student in the same learning environment.

After the open house, she decided to transfer both of her children to give them a chance to receive a better education.

Her son, 16-year-old Darihus Cotta, is in 10th grade, and her daughter, 14-year-old Serenity Vidot, is in eighth grade.

“Darihus had been struggling and struggling,” Ms. Vidot-Cotta said. “He is not wired to sit down and listen and learn. He’s very, very bright, but he learns differently.”

Serenity, on the other hand, is a straight “A” student and an independent learner.

“They are like night and day — exact opposites — when it comes to school,” Ms. Vidot-Cotta said.

Since transferring to Achievement House, they have each reached the highest level of achievement in their academic careers.

Serenity, who has been taking Spanish, honors science and honors language arts classes, recently, was accepted into the National Junior Honor Society.

“I always did well in school, but the opportunities I have had at Achievement House would not be offered to me at my old school,” Serenity said. “I also know my old school would not be the best learning environment for me. I am better on my own without any distractions.”

Darihus, likewise, is beginning to catch up to his grade level because of the support he is receiving from Achievement House, Ms. Vidot-Cotta said.

“The specialist said my son needed someone to be with him to learn, but the school district told me they could not afford it,” Ms. Vidot-Cotta said. “He finally is getting the help he has needed all along because of Achievement House.”

A personal care assistant works with him at home from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. four of the five school days to keep him on task and learning.

“She is very patient and finds different ways to teach him, and now he is doing a lot better,” Ms. Vidot-Cotta said. “If I would have let him go, he would have just failed. You have to advocate for your children.”

Although they spend their days at home, Darihus and Serenity have many opportunities for social interaction.

They both volunteer with their mother at community events, such as the Estamos Unidos de Pennsylvania’s annual Christmas Party and Multicultural Latino Picnic.

Darihus is a volunteer junior firefighter with the Oberlin Fire Company and works part-time at the Hershey Chocolate World attraction. Serenity is a member of several sports teams, including the girls’ basketball team at the school district. She also plays on recreational handball, soccer and flag football teams.

In addition to the educational opportunities provided to her children, Ms. Vidot-Cotta also has been pleased with the open dialogue she has had with the school.

“The communication is wonderful at Achievement House,” Ms. Vidot-Cotta said. “They acknowledge the great work of the students. They contact the parents regularly, and they are there for you. Everything is very organized.”