Faces of Mt. Scott
“Faces of Mt. Scott” is a series of short videos spotlighting the amazing people -- students, staff and volunteers -- who make up the Mt. Scott community. We invite you to see and hear their inspiring stories.
FACES OF MT. SCOTT: Julante’e
When he was a young child, circumstances forced Julante’e and his sister to be removed from their mother’s care. Soon after that, Julante’e began being bullied at school – a difficult period that lasted almost three years.
“My experience growing up was really hard,” says Julante’e. “Being bullied was tough. I tried to be nice to people, but it just didn’t work out. Even people that didn’t bully me in class would still laugh at me and secretly make fun of me.”
Julante’e later entered high school unsure and nervous.
“I kept thinking what am I going to do if I fail this class and what if I don’t understand stuff the way other people do, and what if people make fun of me for it,” recalls Julante’e. “I was that person that needed extra help and just couldn’t get it or find it (at a big school).”
Julante’e soon became frustrated and depressed, eventually telling himself he was never going to graduate and there was no point in continuing to go to school.
“And then I heard about Mt. Scott, and everything started to change,” says Julante’e. “As soon as I walked in to the school, I could tell it was like a family and that I was really going to love this school. The class sizes were perfect for me and the staff was always going to be available to help me and make sure I was successful”
Today, Julante’e is a senior at Mt. Scott and on track to graduate in June.
“I’m recognizing that I’m graduating and going to college and it’s such an amazing feeling for me and my family,” says Julante’e. “I’ve wanted this for a long time and I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish. I thank God every day that I found this school.”
FACES OF MT. SCOTT: Marcos
Growing up, Marcos never knew his father, and his mother left him at the age of three. Says Marcos, “my grandparents decided to step up and take action and raise me the right away.”
But five years ago, on the verge of entering middle school, Marcos was consumed with anxiety.
“It would get so bad, I’d shake and I’d sweat, and people would notice that and they’d point it out and I’d get angry and my anger issues would come out as well,” recalls Marcos.
His grandparents were concerned about enrolling Marcos in a large public school.
“They knew I wouldn’t last very long,” says Marcos. “They were desperately looking for the right fit for me.”
His grandparents found out about Mt. Scott, and “just entering the building here it felt like coming home,” remembers Marcos. “As soon as I stepped through those doors I felt very welcome. The staff here was fantastic and they were going to make sure I was successful.”
Fast forward five years and the 16-year-old Marcos, now a sophomore at Mt. Scott, is a confident and positive young man with a bright future.
“I’ve gone through a lot in my past and Mt. Scott has helped me overcome many of my challenges,” he says. “No matter what their situation is or struggles are, every student deserves the opportunity to be successful. Mt. Scott has given me that opportunity.”
FACES OF MT. SCOTT: Carly Jo Shulikov
Carly Jo Shulikov was in middle school when it became clear why she was struggling to learn in a large traditional school environment.
“I had a very anxious and unstable home life,” recalls Carly. “My parents were both heroin addicts and alcoholics and I had little support around my education. I was beating myself up each night about not comprehending the material taught at school and the focus I wasn’t able to obtain. I needed a place like Mt. Scott.”
Carly came to Mt. Scott her eighth grade year and things began to change.
“Mt. Scott provided me the smaller, quieter environment I needed, with more of a focus on my individual academic success and areas of opportunity,” says Carly. “The curriculum was engaging and I felt connected to adults in my life for the very first time, which was always a personal longing of mine.”
Shortly after graduating from Mt. Scott, Carly began working part-time as a teller at U.S. Bank. Three years later she was promoted to assistant branch manager, a position she has held for almost two years. Her future goals with the company include becoming a district operations manager.
Carly reflects back on her early years, her previous struggles in school, and where her life is today.
“I’m no longer ashamed of where I came from, because where I come from is Mt. Scott,” says Carly. “I was taught the perfect example of the person I wanted to be. I am now a reflection of the staff at Mt. Scott and I couldn’t be more proud, and I hope to teach my children those same values. What Mt. Scott does really matters. It changes lives and it has changed mine.”
FACES OF MT. SCOTT: Amanda
Amanda is a 17-year year-old senior who will graduate this year with a Future Connect college scholarship and plans to pursue a career in cosmetology. Her story is representative of many students who tackle significant risk factors outside of school and do not find success at larger, traditional schools.
“I was really struggling my freshman and sophomore years at my previous school,” says Amanda. “I failed some classes, I was bullied and was suffering a lot from depression. I was dealing with some difficult issues with my family and was really in a bad place physically and emotionally. This led me to basically drop out.”
“Then I found Mt. Scott and this school really changed my life in a good way,” recalls Amanda. “The staff here has been so supportive, and I come each day and am welcomed, encouraged and challenged academically. You don’t find this at many schools.”
Amanda is especially appreciative of Mt. Scott’s Transitions Program and its focus on preparing students for success after high school.
“Before Mt. Scott I really didn’t know if I would graduate on time, let alone know what I would or could do after high school,” says Amanda. “But the Transitions Program has really helped me navigate through the system of applying and preparing for college, and exploring careers. I wouldn’t get that support anywhere else and I’m so thankful to Mt. Scott.”
FACES OF MT. SCOTT: Blair Hennessy
Blair Hennessy is a Senior Academy social studies teacher at Mt. Scott. After a variety of experiences in Washington, California and living and teaching abroad, Blair moved to Portland and has worked at Mt. Scott the past three years. She believes in pushing her students to ask questions, explore their own identities in relation to history, and take ownership of their education. Blair has spent much of her time exploring the struggles and successes in different regions of the world and engages students about these rich topics.
Blair is bilingual and serves as a key member of Mt. Scott’s Equity Team and Collaborative Action Research for Equity (CARE) Team. The teams receive extensive training and promote a framework which allows teachers to intentionally create a classroom community where all student voices, perspectives, and cultures are valued. Blair is deeply committed to educational equity and providing instruction with the rigor, cultural relevance, and relationships that ignite the potential of each student.
“I have many opportunities to affect change here that I wouldn’t have in a large school,” adds Blair. “Education is daunting, puzzling, challenging and scary, and it’s encouraging to know I can, to some degree, impact the community of which I am a part.”
FACES OF MT. SCOTT: Dick Rudzinski
Dick Rudzinski has been a volunteer math tutor at Mt. Scott for the past six years. A former school teacher and administrator in Kansas for 35 years, Dick and his wife moved to SE Portland to retire and be close to their daughter and granddaughter. But it soon became clear Dick missed teaching, and volunteering at Mt. Scott became the perfect match.
Dick started by tutoring a small group of Mt. Scott middle school students in math after school three days a week. It didn’t take long to realize what a tremendous asset Dick was to Mt. Scott, so staff asked him to consider moving into the classroom. He’s been volunteering in Mt. Scott math classrooms ever since on the average of three hours a day five days a week.
“I’m just grateful to feel as though I can still contribute something to our community,” says Dick. "I’m grateful to know teachers and support staff that are so passionate about their role in these kids’ lives. And it is so rewarding to see the flash of understanding on the face of a young person that all of a sudden realizes that they understand some new concept. It makes it all worth it.”
FACES OF MT. SCOTT: Travon
Travon is a 17-year-old senior at Mt. Scott Learning Center. Travon grew up without a father in his life, battled the influence of gangs, encountered difficult living situations, and struggled at his previous school. But thanks to a supportive mother and the assistance of Mt. Scott, Travon is experiencing success. He is graduating this year – on time – and headed for college and a promising future. Says Travon: “This school changed my life.”