School in hospital gives kids something to focus on beyond illness



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Posted on May 3, 2013 at 10:40 PM

Updated Friday, May 3 at 11:06 PM

DALLAS -- For some kids, school is a drag.

For others, it a chance to just feel normal.

Especially for kids in the hospital who really need something to keep their mind of their illness, like Jay Hernandez, who’s enrolled in the Garland ISD’s gifted and talented program.

Two-and-a-half weeks ago he was diagnosed with cancer and admitted to Children's Medical Center. The diagnosis and treatment have turned his world upside down, but it hasn't distracted him from his education.

That’s because there's a little-known school that operates at Children's to help Jay keep up with rest of his classmates back at his home school.

"I'm having tutors here who are helping me out at school,” Hernandez said.

A teacher - dressed in a hospital gown - who works for Children's, oversees Jay’s lessons sent from his home school. She also helps him prep for the STAAR test, which he missed because of his illness.

How would explain that to his classmates?

“I'm going to be more prepared then you were for the STAAR test,” Jay said. “In your face!" he adds, for the laugh.

Kelly Ihejiawu, an educator who runs the program at Children’s, said the classes are a welcome reminder of normal life.

"I'm not going to stick them with a needle," Ihejiawu said. "I'm not going to make them take another pill."

Last year, Children's provided some level of educational services to 3,000 patients like Jay.

"This is why I do what I do,” Ihejiawu said.

And even after many our discharged, Children's communicates with their home school, so everyone understands the medical challenges a child still faces, even if they look healthy.

"Yes, we do," Ihejiawu said. "Some of them never leave us."

Continuity in Jay's education is critical for him, as his long fight has only just begun,  according to his mother.

"It helps him forget everything,” Zaida Hernandez said.

And bringing the classroom to his bedside helps him say, 'Cancer, in your face!'