From Shredded Homework to Student Leader: How Drexel built a brighter future

April 24, 2023

Drexel’s bright, blue, glow-in-the-dark glasses are just one part of him that lights up a room. As a 7th grader who loves animals and being outdoors, his compassion for others shines through.

Drexel began his journey at the UMFS Charterhouse School in Edinburg in 2019. Back then, his experience looked much different than it does today. Thanks to the support of generous donors and dedicated volunteers, Drexel has been able to get the help he needed to become a star student and a role model for his peers.

The UMFS Charterhouse School serves students with behavioral, emotional or developmental challenges. Some students’ challenges manifest in aggressive behavior, while others are very withdrawn and may feel too anxious to attend school. At Charterhouse School students benefit from very small class sizes with a customized, therapeutic educational environment designed to support their special needs. At Charterhouse, Drexel blossomed into a strong student who encourages his peers to work hard as well.

Today, Drexel takes pride in his ability to complete his work, even when it gets a little challenging. “One time, I was sick for a while, but I caught up on all my work eventually. It might have taken a little bit, but I still got it done,” he shared. This is a stark contrast from how Drexel used to feel about his schoolwork, which he would often tear into pieces. Drexel’s mother, Loretta, was at the end of her rope. “I thought there was no hope for him.” Once Drexel settled into Charterhouse School, he was able to get the resources and support he needed to thrive. “They just work so hard to get each child to where they need to be.”

“He’s a straight-A student, and this is coming from a kid who used to not do any work. I’m just so proud of how far he’s come.”

Drexel’s teacher, Robyn Bonilla, witnessed his transformation first-hand. “Drexel’s first day in my classroom wasn’t a very successful one. He ended up going home early. When he came back to school a few weeks later, you could start to see a real change in him. Now he comes in ready to work and does not give up.”

Loretta noticed the change as well. “There was a light at the end of the tunnel. He started succeeding with good grades and a positive attitude about school.”

Drexel’s hard work has paid off. “I think he won almost every award he could win last quarter including the personal growth award,” Robyn said. “He’s a straight-A student, and this is coming from a kid who used to not do any work. He has such a positive attitude and will ask for help if he doesn’t understand something. I’m just so proud of how far he’s come, and he continues to show so much growth and maturity.”

In addition to staying on top of his work and staying organized, Drexel encourages his classmates to do the same. Carol Kelley, a Treatment Specialist at Charterhouse, speaks to his influence on his classmates. “He’s very well liked, very friendly, and very kind. Students are drawn to Drexel, and I think that’s part of the reason why he’s effective as a leader, because people care about what he has to say. He tries to help his peers to do better because it was an important decision that Drexel made in his own life, to do better.”

Drexel credits his experience with his mentor, Mr. Damien, as well as his former mentor, Scott, for helping him become a better student. Carol also credits Drexel’s self-determination.

At Charterhouse, Drexel has found community and a place to grow. His relationship with his teachers, and especially his mentors Scott and Mr. Damien, gives him structure and someone to share his passions with.

Reflecting on the impact Scott had on his life, Drexel shared, “What’s helped me is having somebody that’s kind of like a father figure, because I normally just get to see my father once on Fridays.”

“He tries to help his peers to do better because it was an important decision that Drexel made in his own life, to do better.”

Drexel loves being in nature, whether he’s exploring his own backyard or venturing out to Storybook Trail for a view of Luray with Mr. Damien. Drexel’s love and concern for animals extends beyond his cat, dog and bearded dragon at home. He even wants to protect cockroaches, the one creature that startles him, because he knows they’re still part of the food chain.

This also helps Drexel keep other perspectives in mind. While he has a passion to protect all living things, he’s learning that not everyone has the same adoration for spiders as he does.

In his free time, Drexel enjoys getting creative with his kinetic sand, listening to country music on the radio and playing with whatever is in his packed book bag.

Drexel recently graduated from equine therapy and is looking forward to getting a job at the same center when he turns fourteen In November.

While it may not have been the case before coming to Charterhouse, Drexel’s ability to see the beauty in those around him is universal. “My teachers are very great to me,” he says, “but to me, anybody can be great in their own ways.”

“He has come so far,” reflected Loretta. “I don’t think any other school could have done this. I don’t know what I would do without you all at Charterhouse.”

Your support can help transform the lives of more students like Drexel. To learn more about volunteering as a tutor or mentor, visit To learn more about donating, visit