#becauseofCJ: Emily Draeger '13

Young alumni are sharing how they are succeeding after high school in our #becauseofCJ series. Through your gift to the CJ Annual Fund, you make this happen. Read Emily's story below, and consider joining others today in supporting the mission of CJ.

Dear CJ Community,

If you talk to any student who is graduating this year, most likely they will say they are excited, a little nervous, and (maybe) sad to be moving on. This conversation is similar whether you are talking to an elementary student moving to middle school, a middle school student moving to high school, or a high school student moving onto college or another chosen path.

I remember feeling the nervousness, sadness, and excitement of transitioning from elementary school to high school. I remember being able to share those feelings with family and friends, and with the student I shadowed at CJ, as an eighth grader. I left my visit day with not only an older student to look up to, but also knowing that I had found my high school. The students I had met during the day were inviting, the classes were rigorous yet engaging, and the teachers were very student-centered. It felt like home to me.

CJ was home for me for four years of my life. CJ was where I made new friends and strengthened old friendships, learned so much academically, and gained mentors in my teachers over the years. The teachers and staff at CJ form relationships with students and, in my experience, truly want the best for you and your future. It’s an amazing feeling knowing you have a strong support system from them even after graduation and many years have passed.

Fast forward several years and I’m witnessing my fifth grade students doing the same as they prepare for middle school. They’re going on visits and tours, talking with middle school students and teachers, and sharing their feelings and emotions with me about the upcoming transition. Just like I did when I was choosing my high school as an eighth grader, my fifth graders are having to do the same at a much younger age. My wish for them is to find a middle school that fits their personality, their academic need, and feels like home — just like CJ did to me.

It was at CJ that I learned what the word “inclusive” meant, even before “inclusive” was a hot word in the field of education. Inclusive behavior is a personality and behavior trait that my school focuses on and as a teacher, I have found that it’s easiest to teach inclusivity by experience. My experience at CJ allowed me to form relationships with students who came from different backgrounds and collaborate on projects with students with various needs and disabilities.

The inclusivity that CJ provides for students serves as a reminder to me that everyone has something great to share and because I was able to be a part of that strong and accepting culture, I’m currently teaching fifth grade at a public school, but am also getting my Master’s degree in special education.  It’s my goal to not only teach my students academically, but to teach them how to be better members of society, and the knowledge and experience I gained by attending CJ is helping me to do so.

Emily Draeger '13