At attention: A young man’s passion for the United States military becomes a building block of independence at The Bancroft School
“It’s such an honor to work with these Veterans,” says a poised Hunter Hiros, a 20-year-old student at The Bancroft School. Two days per week, Hunter, who has autism, puts his passion for American history and respect for the U.S. military to work as he volunteers with The Battleship New Jersey on the Camden waterfront.
When “Seaman Hunter,” as his coworkers call him, is not on ship, he’s strengthening his academic and social skills in a classroom at Camden County College, where he’s enrolled in Bancroft on Campus, a unique program that enables students with disabilities to interact with peers in a college setting.
But seven years ago, the picture looked much different. When an adolescent Hunter first came to Bancroft, he had a long road to travel to become the capable, engaging young man he is today.
Journey to Adulthood
Before Hunter’s parents, Jennifer and John, discovered The Bancroft School, Hunter attended a different private school and then a specialized program that was offered within his home school district Once that middle school program ended, Hunter’s parents began to look for a program that would meet all of his needs. A member of Hunter’s IEP team suggested Bancroft.
“When I first met Hunter, he had a difficult time being attentive in class. He was not able follow directions or sit in a chair,” remembers Sean Carmack, Hunter’s teacher. “These days, he has made such incredible progress and has become one of my star students.”
Hunter’s mom Jennifer remembers those first few weeks at Bancroft as a hopeful adjustment period. She trusted that staff saw in Hunter the same potential she always saw. She knew he would thrive.
“When we learned Hunter had autism, our entire family dedicated themselves to helping him,” she says. “Once we found Bancroft, we were relieved as we watched him grow by leaps and bounds. Bancroft has transformed Hunter’s life, and our life in the process.”
Once Hunter began to thrive in the classroom, Bancroft staff knew it was time for him to pursue his passion and prepare for independence in adulthood. Christine McGivern, a Senior Job Coach with the High School Transition Program at The Bancroft School, worked hand-in-hand with The Battleship New Jersey to customize a vocational opportunity for Hunter that hones his job skills and feeds his passion.
Dreams into Reality
“I knew Hunter would do well in a work environment, but he has absolutely exceeded all my expectations,” says Christine. “Not only is he gaining transferable job and social skills, but he is also building his confidence every day. Hunter will soar after graduation.”
The job perks aren’t bad either. “I love my Battleship shirt, and sometimes, I earn pins!” Hunter proudly boasts as he prepares for another day on ship. His job has helped him focus on a task and feel pride in his accomplishments.
“Bancroft is truly superior in its craft – supporting children with autism through a meaningful education,” Jennifer says. “My hope for my son is that he finds fulfillment and value in his daily life, and Bancroft has turned that dream into reality as Hunter becomes an adult.”
Read more about Hunter featured in the Courier-Post
At The Bancroft School, students ages 3 through 21 have access to a robust suite of services and an interdisciplinary educational and therapeutic team including faculty, physical, occupational, speech and sensory therapists. Individualized education and transition plans are tailored to each student’s strengths and goals.