Princess of Pattison's Academy

Legare

Marlayah Legare is the Princess of Pattison's Academy, a 14-year-old who knows what she wants be and how to get there.

The only thing standing in her way is that she can't stand, move her arms or do a few other things most of us take for granted.

But that's all right because she fits right in with the other kids at the new charter school on Bees Ferry Road that opens its doors in August to 32 children with severe and multiple disabilities.

The only thing they need is more money. While the school has found a home at Rutledge Memorial Baptist Church in West Ashley, and has some funding from the Charleston County School District, it's not enough.

"We still need about $7,500 per student per year," said Sloan Cooper, the school's executive director. "It's all about fundraising, fundraising, fundraising."

As it has been for five years since Pattison's Academy opened its doors as a summer camp for these kids who need and deserve such special care.

Calling roll

Watching mothers and fathers carefully unload their children on a recent morning, you get a glimpse of the daily toll caring for these children takes on families.

Nothing, you see, is routine, easy or without obstacles.

Just having them in school gives parents a chance to hold a job, take care of other siblings, or go shopping. It's a world many of us never see, or choose to overlook.

In the middle of it all is Marlayah, her huge smile acting as a beacon for those preparing to enter the school when it holds its official ribbon cutting next month.

"I just help everybody out," said Marlayah, dressed in her pretty purple dress and white shoes. "I call the roll, do attendance and try to be supportive to those who need help."

While Marlayah has attended every summer camp at Pattison's, she'll be attending West Ashley High School this fall.

Because, while she suffers from a disease that affects the joints, there is nothing wrong with Marlayah's dream to become a pediatrician.

My own way

Meanwhile, Cooper and her staff take the kids for strolls while trying to improve their quality of life in an atmosphere of a comprehensive education.

Not everybody can do everything, but what they can do enriches the lives of the students as well as their families.

For more information, go to pattisonsacademy.org or call 849-6707.

As for Marlayah, she plans to work at the school during her high school years, attend the University of South Carolina, then get her medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina.

"I can do everything," she said, grinning. "I just have to do it in my own way."