Back to School: Recovering & Studying at Magee

This time of year, the biggest struggles most 16-year-olds face are Algebra II and remembering a new locker combination. But for Jonathan Manno, those were not even blips on his radar. He was focused on overcoming a much larger obstacle: a spinal cord injury.

After acute care, Jonathan came to Magee for his rehab. And while in many ways, his life was drastically different from that of the average 16-year-old, there was one big way in which it hadn’t changed: he still had to go to school.

At Magee, there is an emphasis on treating the whole person—not just the injury. For young people going through rehab, part of that includes continuing their education, whether it be in high school or college. It’s so important, in fact, that Magee developed specialized therapeutic services for adolescents and young adults. The Adolescent & Young Adult Educational & Vocational Program is designed to help them return to a life of independence after their time at Magee.

For Jonathan, it was very important to graduate with the rest of his class in 2014—but that would take some planning. But when patients are spending hours a day in therapy and coping with their new functional limitations, keeping them on track to graduate with the rest of their class is far more difficult than it sounds.

But Magee’s Adolescent & Young Adult Program coordinators Marykate and Vilma make it happen. Shortly after Jonathan was admitted to Magee, they contacted his school to learn more about his schedule and class requirements, provided them with all the appropriate medical documentation for a medical leave of absence and coordinated with the guidance counselor. Because Jonathan lives in Atlantic City, it was too far for his teachers to travel. Marykate and Vilma had that covered, too. They worked with Team Tutor, LLC to bring school to him.

Before he knew it, in between therapy sessions, Jonathan was working with his tutor on English, history, pre-calculus, physics and vocabulary.

“It provides you with a sense of normalcy,” he said. “And I like having a one-on-one tutor. It’s the second best thing to actually being back in school.”

The support Magee provides for students goes beyond tutoring—far beyond. Marykate and Vilma also act as advocates for students to make sure they get the credit (and credits) they deserve for the work they put in while at Magee. They work with schools to get students gym credits for therapy, art credits for art therapy and provide opportunities for volunteering at the Hospital for those schools that require service hours.

And when patients leave, they aren’t on their own—Magee continues to follow-up with these patients to ensure their academic and vocational plans remain on track. That includes assisting with the college application process, serving as recommendations for college and vocational programs, referral to the appropriate state vocational rehabilitation office, career and training exploration and follow-up services to assure they are on course with their academic and vocational goals.

And Jonathan? He’s well on his way to achieving his goal. Next week, he will start his senior year with the rest of his class, and everyone at Magee is looking forward to seeing him in that cap and gown.

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