We Aimed for the Stars and Reached the Sun

Five senior students of the G class at Bais Yaakov High School graduated with distinction on the evening of June 13, 2023.  What a moving and memorable sight it was to see them on stage with their peers and standing to receive their certificates and gift. 

 “Who are these special students and what is the G class?” you ask? 

Nine years ago, Rabbi Mendel Freedman zt’l, principal of Bais Yaakov and Dr. Aviva Weisbord a’h, director of SHEMESH, met with a small group of parents to discuss the possibility of their daughters leaving their current public-school placements and enrolling at Bais Yaakov.  Without hesitation, they both responded with a resounding, “Absolutely!”  With the support of Marjorie Shulbank and Cathy Jurist, PEN Project Liaison and representatives of the Maryland State Department of Education, the class was formed, literally two days before the start of the school year.  Since that time, numerous individuals have been involved in the program, working as teachers, assistants, and therapists, each one remarking on the uniqueness of the program and marveling at the progress of the students.  

The classroom teachers worked hard to develop a specialized curriculum that allowed for the mastery of basic skills but also incorporated functional skills for life.  Like their peers, the students learned Kriah, Chumash, Language Arts, Science and Social Studies.  In addition, they benefitted from specials like First Aid, Culinary Arts, Yoga and Sign Language.  While mostly “self-contained”, the students had multiple opportunities to participate in special programs like the Israel Fair and the Science Fair.  As they got older, they had roles in Production and Exhibit.   Grade level peers were invited to join them for breaks and lunch.  Relationships were developed but most importantly, they established deep and authentic connections with each other resulting in life-long friendships.  

The G class students were honored for their amazing achievements at the recent Annual Meeting of Jewish Educational Services.  Recipients of the Robin F. Jacobs Students Achievement Award, they stood proudly at the lectern and recited a poem they wrote together with their teachers.  The audience was so impressed with their poise and maturity.  Several of them were moved to tears.  One attendee later wrote: “I was in tears watching them, it is complete miracles where they are today.  You did something monumental in Baltimore!!” 

The students themselves summed it up best when reflecting on the past several years: 

“You taught me how to be a good role model and Bas Yisrael. You made my life so uplifted.”

“All of you are very close to my heart and very close friends.”

“Thank you for being my friends. I never feel left out when I’m with you.”

Several of the students will be going to seminary next year and some will be working, continuing to bring tremendous Nachas to their families and their wonderful Baltimore community! 

For more information regarding the G class please reach out to Faye Friedman at ffriedman@jesbaltimore.org 

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