Rise School Sets Students Up for Success

The young students at the Ashford Rise School of Dallas were on the move in February during transportation week.

They painted with students from Woodrow Wilson High School, sang about the “Wheels on the Bus,” took rides in the school’s buggy — which had to make 3-point turns in the hallways — and even went through the “car wash,” a padded set of rollers that helps build motor skills. (Teachers went through the wash as well at the start of the year.)

Rise School students play in the Moody Family YMCA gym. PHOTO: Courtesy Ashford Rise School of Dallas

It sounds like a lot for the 50 to 60% of Rise students who have disabilities and may find movement difficult. But challenging tasks get easier when they can watch traditional learners.

“The peer model can be really motivating to kiddos. You always want to do what your friends are doing,” said the Rise School’s director Maude Pampel. “Sometimes the movement part can be really hard. … Seeing other kids running around and wanting to keep up makes them kind of forget about that, and they just go, go, go.”

The Rise School is located inside the Moody Family YMCA, where its environment is intentionally designed to keep all its students, who range in age from six months to six years, progressing to the next stage of their development. Each class includes children with disabilities and traditional learners, and everyone has their own place. Some children even sit in chairs uniquely created to keep each learner upright.

The school focuses on foundational support in the classroom for its youngest students. Older students take the lead in deciding how they’ll work on building new skills.

Rise School and private therapists work with students. And teachers communicate adaptations and modifications to parents so that they’re well-positioned to advocate for their child as they continue their education, Pampel said.

“Everyone’s always on the same page of where they are and where they’re going,” she said. “We can all share what successes we’re having when we’re working on goals. That collaboration is just wonderful.”

The school is open from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and has aftercare until 5:30 p.m. Most of its classes have 10-12 students and three teachers, including one who is either pursuing or already has a master’s degree. The infant room is slightly smaller, with only eight students and three teachers. The Rise School has almost 100 families on its waitlist. 

Half the school’s tuition is subsidized for all families, and almost 60% of students receive additional financial aid. Funding comes from community and corporate donors, as well as the TouchDown Club of Dallas. The TouchDown Club will host its 10th annual ZiegenBock Big Texas BBQ benefitting the Rise School from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 23. Donors can also visit RiseDallas.org to support the school.

“Eventually, these guys will grow up in a community and work side by side,” Pampel said. “It’s really cool that we get to start this now when they’re this young.”

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