Learning Success

Two years later, when they returned to Barker Creek Community School as a junior, they had learned new skills that helped them graduate from high school and land a job as an administrative assistant at an addiction treatment center.

“Without Madrona, I feel like I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have graduated on time and maybe not at all,” Zypher says. “I had a lot of mental health issues. I was struggling all the time.”

Middle school was tough. Zypher was bullied and defiant, often wandering away from class. As a freshman in high school, they were diagnosed with autism and a depressive disorder that led to angry outbursts. They were also self-harming and had attempted suicide.

When they started at Madrona, classes were remote because of the pandemic. They began attending in person in the fall of 2020, following a summer of figuring out their gender expression and pronouns.

“Immediately, I was accepted. (Madrona staff) were very open and nice about the transition. I felt very welcome and accepted.”

Still, settling in to Madrona was a struggle and there were days when Zypher wanted to quit. Over time, they began to appreciate the small class sizes, reassuring routine and unfailing positive reinforcement.

Former Madrona Student, ZephyrGuerrero, sits at a school desk resting her head on her hand.

“It was a really hard, really long journey to stay in school and to stay alive.”

Zypher Guerrero, Former Madrona student

When the family was struggling financially, Madrona staff allowed Zypher to take school snacks home. When Zypher was trying new medications for anxiety and depression, staff members were understanding. And when they learned Zypher likes to cook, the school team invited Zypher to help in the kitchen.

“If I was elevated, really sad or really angry, the were able to turn it around. They recognized the behavior and would just listen and make a funny comment. They never interrupted. They let me have my feelings and talk about it.”

And when there were conflicts with other students, Zypher learned to change the environment, walk away and cool down. It gave them a new perspective, and a strategy that has since worked at Barker Creek and now at their job.

“When I got back to Barker, I knew who I was. I was able to communicate what I needed and I got one-on-one help.”

When Zypher graduated in May 2023, it was a transformative moment for a student who spent most of their academic years feeling unsuccessful.

“That was the biggest accomplishment I could have done. It was a really hard, really long journey to stay in school and to stay alive.”