Sophia Castellano is a rising ninth grader at Insight School of Ohio (ISOH) who is also a transgender female. After experiencing a great deal of stress from her previous brick-and-mortar school setting, she has found a new home with ISOH.
“She was being bullied daily in school and would come home with headaches, belly aches, and anxiety,” said her mother, Eilene Castellano. “Every night she would start worrying about attending school the next day, thinking how she was going to survive the school day. The focus wasn’t on learning but surviving. She has been bullied by her peers and teachers at school. I attended meetings and a mediation meeting expressing my concerns but it was no help. And it became so stressful to even myself that I decided to remove her and place her in ISOH.”
Sophia started at ISOH in March 2015 and has loved her experience so much, she plans to stay with ISOH until she graduates.
Before Eilene enrolled Sophia into ISOH, she first tried transferring her to another brick-and-mortar school, but they came across the same issues. Online school has helped Sophia reduce her anxiety and PTSD dramatically.
“I am very blessed how open-minded and wonderful everyone has been with her, from her intervention specialist teachers to her speech and occupational therapist,” Eilene said. “Being able to attend ISOH, she is able to be herself. She doesn’t have the stress of trying to either hide who she is or be who she is and get bullied like in a regular public school. She is being her true authentic self and learning at the same time.”
Sophia is a part of a functional life skills curriculum where she has all courses with the assistance of intervention specialist teachers. She also takes related services speech therapy and occupational therapy.
“In ISOH her grades are wonderful,” Eilene said. “She is learning and she gets along with all of her teachers.”
Sophia has also found music to be a great way to express herself. She has attended Beck Center for the Arts since Fall 2014 to help her train and learn how to perfect her singing.
“Sophia has always loved music and dancing since she was little,” Eilene said. “Around 2012, she started singing at home with a karaoke machine I got for her. She has been through traumatic experiences, and singing has been a way of her expressing her feelings, singing to songs she could relate to and understood in her own way.”
Sophia’s intervention specialist teachers, Mrs. Back and Mrs. Myers, attended this year’s ISOH virtual talent show in support of Sophia’s performance. She sang “No One” by Alicia Keys. Sophia was very happy they were there!
“Being able to do online school has been very beneficial because it’s so flexible – not just to be able to attend her weekly music therapy but, also her other therapies and appointments,” Eilene said.
Sophia also receives weekly 45-minute individual sessions of musical therapy at the Beck Center. She practices repetition of songs she likes for several months until she can memorize the lyrics and then performs them for the staff and her guests. She started with an audience of two, and now she is performing in front of eight or nine!
“One of my favorite songs to sing is ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry,” Sophia said. “To me, it means I don’t have to be silent.”