Academics West was founded in 2011 by Dr. Jeffrey Kassinove and Dr. Evan Flamenbaum, both of whom are mental health professionals and educators. Initially, they worked together to help students who struggled social-emotionally to fit within a typical educational setting. Over time, they realized that a typical general or special education setting is not always effective, even with extensive support. This led to the development of Academics West and the Clinically Informed Academics® model. These ideas were not initially written down but were the expression of their frustration with standard educational settings and their belief that there was a better way to help those who struggle. The vision statement of AW became the foundation of their collective work, which is now the ideal that all staff embraces when working with students at AW.
Our mission is simple and captures our values and dedication to those we serve.
“We embrace the best most innovative tools and methods to help children with emotional and learning differences blossom into productive self-valuing individuals.”
As school-based mental health professionals for many years before we founded Academics West, we witnessed so many students who just did not “fit” into the expectations of even the most specialized schools. Over the course of a continued discussion on how best to meet both the social-emotional and academic needs of students, we arrived at some fundamental realizations that serve as the cornerstone of the Academics West philosophy and unique high support model. First, we realized that so often students who are underperforming or acting out in school are sent to residential placements. Although there are times when this is necessary, we also felt that with the correct constellation of support, many of these students might not have required a higher level of care. Moreover, family preservation emerged as our core reason to create Academics West which allows students to receive comprehensive support in the context of a day program.
It also became clear to us that a critical ingredient was missing from the interventions that our students were typically receiving. Knowing that learning and therapy rely heavily on executive functioning for students to be able to store and utilize the skills they were being taught, we were astounded that this was not an integral component of every student’s individual support plan. Clinically Informed Academics®, and integration of clinical and educational skill development, emerged from the missing piece of the support puzzle. We have been amazed at the outcomes we have observed for over a decade due to this methodology. When students make gains in therapy as well as in their ability to be successful at school, a kind of transformation occurs. A student who was struggling emotionally and felt they could never be a successful student is replaced with a hopeful, motivated learner who knows how they learn and is able to handle life’s challenges. The proof is in the pudding: 100% of our graduating students since inception have been accepted into college, a goal many students and parents felt was not attainable.
Finally, we spent a long time determining what kind of philosophy we could embrace and impart to our staff and students to energize them to support our model of change. Ultimately, the concept of the Hero’s Journey resonated with us and has been infused into the structure and culture of Academics West. Students come to us feeling worn down by the many trials and tribulations they have experienced. With sufficient support supplied by kind and supportive mentors (our amazing teaching and clinical staff) students emerge from their challenges as true heroes. The realization that struggles can breed success and resilience is the lifeblood that flows through Academics West.
We invite you to participate in our amazing journey.