We are developing the J.S. Bryant School, a therapeutic high school that will energize LGBTQ+ students’ curiosity and learning passion through creative exploration, farming entrepreneurship, and climate innovation, emphasizing learning excellence.
As a therapeutic school nestled in the foothills of the Berkshires, educators, clinicians, farming professionals and artists will nurture and grow students’ personal power and wellness in a gender-affirming environment. Students will graduate ready for college or take on a job in the arts, farming, or climate innovation.
Your donation will support the construction of the school's wellness center - with therapy, psychiatry, group meeting rooms and nurse/medical support.
The school is a 501(c)3 non-for-profit organization. Your donation is tax deductible. The J.S. Bryant School is incorporated in the state of Massachusetts with a seven-person board of directors. We plan to open our doors to students in the fall of 2025.
Maria Slowiaczek (69), died October 7th, 2022. Maria was a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst with an empathic, relational approach to healing. She was committed to building a loving and caring community for those around her. She was a strong supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, and believed deeply in the mission and healing modality of the J.S. Bryant School. The J.S. Bryant School was founded by longtime family friends of the Furnas/Slowiaczek Household, and is located in the heart of western Massachusetts, an area of the country Maria held close to her heart. Had she lived longer in western Massachusetts, Maria had hoped to be involved in the therapeutic care offered at the J.S. Bryant School during her retirement. Her family is gratified to be able to support the school in her honor.
Today’s high school students are struggling with anxiety, depression, suicidality, trauma, and victimization. Youth that identify as LGBTQ+, particularly those that identify as trans and nonbinary young people, report much higher rates of struggle. With almost 2 million U.S. teens who identify as LGBTQ+, the learning and living community of the J.S. Bryant School will serve those LGBTQ+ teens who are anxious and depressed, who may be on a gender journey that need a community that is affirming and supportive of identity development. This learning community will be for high school students who are not well served by traditional school settings, because their clinical, learning, and social needs are not being met.
The founders, Dr. Allison Druin and Dr. Ben Bederson, are life-long educators and innovators with a commitment to experiential learning and listening to the voices of young people. They are lovers of craft, creativity, and the healing properties of outdoor education and life. They are also the parents of a high school student who has walked this journey and now attends a therapeutic boarding school. As they sought a supportive environment for their child, they learned what was and wasn’t available. Coupled with their history of living in the Berkshires, they have been inspired by their family journey to create a much-needed learning community in the northeast.
Currently, there are no therapeutic day or boarding schools in the country that focus on this population of students with a full staff trained to specifically support and/or have lived-experiences in gender-affirming living and learning. With Massachusetts and New York reporting the greatest numbers of teens that identify as LGBTQ+, the location of the school can serve a deep need. In addition, there are no residential high schools that combine the arts, farming entrepreneurship, and climate innovation to support learning excellence. J. S. Bryant students will have the opportunity each day to learn with an integrative curriculum of immersive full-day coursework that is project-based and hands-on, surrounded by farming, art studios, and a deep focus on sustainability and climate innovation. The school curriculum will meet the state and local education standards for high school graduation.
Building the School
The J. S. Bryant School is being established on a 300-acre historic farm next to the William Cullen Bryant Homestead, a National Historic Landmark. The historic farm was originally the home of one of the daughters of William Cullen Bryant. The property was purchased in November 2021 enabled by the school’s first private supporter. It is expected that the existing farmhouse will be renovated for administrative offices, meeting rooms, and wellness support areas. The dairy barns and storage areas will be renovated and/or replaced to become dorms, classrooms, art studios, & areas for raising/interacting with animals, orchards, and fruit/maple processing.
The farm as it is now
Over the last year, the founders have met with educators, clinicians, potential parents, and agricultural experts to establish various priorities and expectations for the school. Kuhn Riddle Architects from Amherst, MA has been engaged to develop the plans for the built environment of the campus. And the Berkshire Design Group, a landscape architecture firm in Northampton, MA has been engaged to support and transform the natural environment from a historical farm to a sustainable residential school with farming. To date, visioning drawings have been developed by both firms based on identified priorities.
The school as it is being envisioned