Lakeside's grads overcame problems to get where they were

Miranda Sullivan, 18, was sent to Lakeside School for truancy from the Central Bucks School District. "I have arrived here today a stronger, smarter person," she said at the graduation ceremony.
Miranda Sullivan, 18, was sent to Lakeside School for truancy from the Central Bucks School District. "I have arrived here today a stronger, smarter person," she said at the graduation ceremony. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 26, 2013

Chas Tranausky is spending the early summer days busing tables at a restaurant and deciding what to do next in his life. It's a common tale for a new high school graduate.

The less ordinary part is this: The Bensalem 18-year-old never thought he would earn a diploma.

Most of the 30 seniors in the Class of 2013 probably didn't think they would either, since they all ended up at Lakeside School in Horsham Township because of difficulties at their previous schools.

"I know we all have walked down a pretty rough life," Tranausky said in his graduation speech. "You may not be able to fit into my shoes exactly, and I probably can't fit into yours, but every one of us knows that no matter how many times you get knocked down, you can still recover."

Lakeside is one of those alternative, last-chance schools. It opened in 1976 in Horsham Township at the request of the Montgomery County Juvenile Probation Department.

"At that point in time, the only option for juveniles who were on probation was residential treatment," said Brian Dager, vice president of student services for Lakeside Educational Network, which runs the school.

Lakeside, which offers grades six through 12, became a broader school for students referred mainly by public schools for issues including truancy, family problems, and mildly disruptive behavior.

Tranausky overcame a marijuana addiction. His parents were at work when he got high, which he said he began doing at age 12.

"My life was just partying and having fun. I didn't really care about anything or anybody," he says.

Bad grades and behavior got him into trouble at Bensalem High School, which led him to Lakeside. He was not happy there at first, but staff paid him more attention and helped him adjust.

Lakeside has one staff member for every four students. The average class size is 12, much smaller than most public school classrooms.

His relationship with his parents has improved, too, with greater trust and appreciation for each other.

"I'd say it had to be really rough for them to have me as their child," Tranausky said.

Jristo Pineda, 18, lives in Franconia, Montgomery County, and had attended schools in the Souderton Area School District.

His biggest problem in school was not going to school. Call it unruliness, call it sleeplessness that made it hard for him to wake up. Call it missing his mother, who worked a factory night shift.

"I would stay home from school so I could see my mom," he said.

When he did show up to class, he got into trouble.

"It wasn't that I hated school, it was a lot of family issues," Pineda said. "We sort of had a rough childhood. My parents would argue."

Issues such as stress in his family, who came from Honduras and went through a long citizenship process, he said.

Pineda started attending Lakeside in ninth grade.

Originally, he said, the court sent him to Lakeside for 60 days. But his stay grew into years as he learned self-control.

"In Souderton [High School], you just sat quietly for 40 minutes or 60 minutes in suspension," he said. "At Lakeside, they calm you down, tell you what you did wrong. I use those tactics whenever I get mad. I think of all my choices, and then I think of each consequence that comes with each choice."

Miranda Sullivan, 18, was sent to Lakeside for truancy from the Central Bucks School District. Many experts say truancy is an early signal of bigger problems to come, so catching it early is vital.

Her mother tried unsuccessfully to get her to go to class. "I think it's all on me. I didn't want to listen, I just wanted to do what I wanted to do."

Between seventh and 12th grades, Sullivan went back and forth between Lakeside and public school, finally ending up at Lakeside.

Sullivan also spoke at this month's graduation, where seniors wore caps and gowns, and relatives cheered and took photos.

Her comments illustrated the evolution that got her to the proudest moment of her life.

"After all of the complaining of 'I don't want to,' 'It's hard to,' 'I hate school,' I have arrived here today a stronger, smarter person," she said. "I have learned about myself that I can do it."


Contact Carolyn Davis at 610-313-8109, cdavis@phillynews.com, or @carolyntweets on Twitter.

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