June 14, 2011—graduation day at the six schools operated by Community Service Foundation and Buxmont Academy (CSF Buxmont) of eastern Pennsylvania. At the ceremony at Buxmont Academy Lansdale, the room grew quiet as graduating senior Tori Goldbach stood before her friends, her mom, and the assembled guests and spoke with purpose:
“I am proud to say that today I am graduating sober and going to college to pursue my dreams … thanks to the changes I’ve made and the people in my life. It’s a miracle that I am graduating today; it’s really a miracle I’m still alive. I was determined to drop out of school the day I turned 18, and continue living sick, angry and close to death. But on my 18th birthday, by some miracle, I decided to turn my life around and finally accept the help I’ve always been offered here [at CSF Buxmont Academy] … to take control back of my life. I’ve been sober since that day in November. I never knew life could be so good. I have goals; something I haven’t had for a very long time, and I’ve set high standards for myself.”
What this young woman had to say touched all of those present, and though her words were specific to her life, they also reflected the hopeful outcomes of many of her fellow students.
Tori Goldbach put her self-destructive behavior behind her and was able to see her life in a new way. She benefitted greatly from restorative practices and the staff at CSF Buxmont, who worked with her to help her take responsibility for her behavior and turn her life around. Craig Adamson, executive director of CSF Buxmont, stresses that every counselor and teacher in the organization is committed to the principles of restorative practices, which “hold people accountable in a participatory, effective way.” This approach, Adamson explained, “teaches young people to set their own goals in a highly supportive environment.”
CSF Buxmont counselors were there to help Tori overcome her addictions while she completed her high school credits. Motivated by her new overriding will to better herself, Tori went on to excel at the rigorous academic program that gave her the skills and confidence she needed. Thanks to her friends at the Buxmont Academy—“peers encouraging peers” is also the norm at the schools — she reached graduation day with much to look forward to. (Tori plans on attending a nearby community college, beginning in August 2011. She hopes someday to receive her Bachelor of Science and Doctorate degrees in Psychology.)
Senior Buxmont Academy students like Tori who have a desire to further their education and have set clear career goals are eligible for consideration for several scholarship opportunities at graduation. One of these generous incentives is available through the Shawn Suzch Memorial Scholarship.
Shawn Suzch, a former foster child and a success story himself, firmly believed in the power of a well-rounded education. Tragically, Shawn was killed in 2008 while serving as a soldier in Iraq. Mere weeks after his death, a complete stranger — a caring woman named Katie Kyndely —initiated a $500 scholarship in his honor. She had learned of Shawn and also of the important work of CSF Buxmont during a chance meeting with Shawn’s widow, a fellow airplane passenger, who related her husband’s life story during their flight. The first Buxmont Academy senior received the Kyndely-sponsored award in June 2009. As graduation day 2011 approached, she generously increased the amount of the Shawn Suzch Memorial Scholarship to an annual gift of $1000.
On June 14, 2011, Katie Kyndely and her husband, Dan Saunders, made the 10-hour car trip from their home in Michigan to Bucks County, Pa., wishing to be present at the event and to meet this year’s scholarship recipient. Soon after arriving at the Lansdale school, Katie and Dan were approached by a pretty, bright-eyed young woman clearly overcome with appreciation for them having traveled the distance to be there. Instinctively, a smiling Tori Goldbach reached out to hug the gracious lady standing before her. The hug was warmly returned.
Through the commitment of the youth-serving professionals at CSF Buxmont who touched her life, her probation-officer advocates, the generosity of Katie Kyndely, the legacy of Shawn Suzch, and her friends and loving family, Tori Goldbach now has the prospect of a fine life ahead of her.
Later during her speech, Tori again turned to Katie Kyndely and thanked her for “giving me so much hope.” Tori spoke directly to the woman who had never met her before … someone who was giving her help with her life and her future. For that, she said, “I am so very grateful.”