HOLYOKE — When Autumn Fallon stood up in front of her classmates, family and friends at Mount Tom Academy’s graduation on Tuesday, she was the picture of confidence. As she presented her capstone project, she drew applause and laughter from the audience as she made eye contact with the crowd.
But she wasn’t always like that.
“Since I’ve been at Mount Tom Academy, my confidence has increased dramatically,” Fallon said, listing some of the biggest changes she has seen in herself since arriving at the school from Hampshire Regional High School. “I have come out of my shell, I have been more happy, I made friends.”
Fallon was one of seven students graduating from Mount Tom Academy, an alternative educational program for high school students at risk of dropping out of school. The students come from their district schools and either return to complete their studies or finish their high school work at Mount Tom Academy, which is administered by the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton.
“They had to battle to get this degree,” said Barbara Cheney, the school’s lead instructor. “For some of them, they felt that the educators in their lives kind of threw up their hands … When they came to Mount Tom Academy, they found a voice, a choice and a place where they belong.”