The Gift of The Nicholas Center

Dear Hill-Murray Community,

I sat in the chapel on Tuesday morning at a prayer service celebrating the Feast of Saint Nicholas and The Nicholas Center (TNC). I couldn’t help but notice a few parents in the chapel tearing up as Brent Johnson, Director of The Nicholas Center, spoke about the impact the committed and skilled teachers of the TNC have on a child’s life. He talked about the dedicated staff, the kindness they show our students each day, their commitment to making every child succeed, and how The Nicholas Center gives hope to our students and impacts their entire families.

The Nicholas Center is one of my favorite places and is full of hope each day. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint and protector of children, and The Nicholas Center takes care of children who learn differently and need extra support. We give students and their families hope that they will reach their full academic potential. Brene Brown, one of my favorite authors, once said, “Hope is actually a function of struggle. People with the highest levels of hopefulness have experienced, embraced, and understand struggle.” As educators of children who learn differently, we live this reality daily, one of struggle and of hope. Students who are served by The Nicholas Center begin to understand why they’ve struggled in the past and how to do things differently, and they have hope, often for the first time, that school can be different – better. The Nicholas Center helps our students understand their learning differences to become effective self-advocates for life.

The Nicholas Center is not a stand-alone program. Its philosophy is integrated across our entire school. Created ten years ago, TNC has grown to accommodate nearly 20% of our student body (grades 6-12). The Nicholas Center brings together the academic resources of specially trained tutors, teachers, guidance counselors, college counselors, and study labs. The staff creates individualized learning plans for our neurodiverse students to ensure they receive support and learning strategies to thrive in a challenging and engaging academic environment.

After Tuesday’s chapel service, we gathered briefly for coffee, and in talking to some parents I sensed their collective hope, even amidst the struggle. This is what gives our work so much meaning. I only need to look at our students each day to see how powerful it can be when we embrace our vulnerabilities and it becomes a catalyst for growth and change.

I’ve learned a lot from families about how difficult it is when they were at schools where they didn’t have the support they needed. One mom said: “I cried after our Hill-Murray tour. I am so relieved that we found a place where my daughter is truly thriving. We couldn’t be more thankful for The Nicholas Center.”

This is what Hill-Murray does. We meet students where they’re at, and they leave us as inquisitive, resilient, and compassionate leaders. We invite you to be a part of the wonderful gift The Nicholas Center provides to the entire Hill-Murray community. You can do that with a generous donation to the Nicholas Center Endowment fund.

CLICK here to watch a video on where your donation goes, and CLICK here to learn more about TNC and how to give.

I’ll end by sharing a portion of a St. Nicholas Day Prayer I read recently.  “Loving God, we ask that you give us the courage, love, and strength of Saint Nicholas, so that, like him, we may serve You.” I would add,  by loving our students and showing them there is always hope at Hill-Murray.  Amen.