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CCA Class of 2020: Cheyenne Sauder

Supportive teachers help Cheyenne thrive

When Cheyenne left CCA, it didn’t take long to discover what she was missing. She was a CCA student from third through eighth grades before deciding to give brick-and-mortar high school a try.

“That did not turn out to be what I expected in the least,” she says. “I felt very unsupported and unimportant, which had definitely not been my experience at CCA. I didn’t feel like I had teachers I could trust or rely on anymore.”

Halfway through her freshman year, Cheyenne returned to CCA. She is now a member of CCA’s class of 2020, perhaps preparing for a career in education, modeled after her caring teachers at CCA.

When Cheyenne, of Mechanicsburg, transferred back to CCA, she was months behind in some subjects. Her teachers helped her catch up by providing the kind of support she had lacked at the brick-and-mortar school.

“I remember my biology teacher making an entire schedule for several months ahead about what I would do each day,” she says. “That made the biggest difference. They were so friendly. They were so helpful.”

Math was a problem, too, because her brick-and-mortar teacher had spent months reviewing the previous year’s material. At CCA’s Harrisburg drop-in center, the math teacher patiently explained every concept in a way that Cheyenne understood.

“We spent hours and hours working on stuff together,” she says. “I honestly don’t know if I would have passed that course without his help.”

As the eldest of four siblings, Cheyenne has always been encouraged to do her best. She loves showing her three brothers — all CCA students — her honor roll certificates. She recalls an emotionally scarring experience in second grade, when her brick-and-mortar school teacher would make her sit alone in the classroom for getting answers wrong on her math worksheets.

“That whole year taught me that not understanding something was not safe to do,” she says. “Not knowing things was scary.”

Her CCA teachers helped her overcome that fear. The drop-in center math teacher convinced her that not understanding an Algebra II concept wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

“He helped me learn about myself and was really there for me when I needed him,” Cheyenne says. “I really don’t know where I would be without CCA. I can’t imagine how different my whole family’s experience would be.”

And, Cheyenne notes, she and her brothers had an advantage as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated online learning for all, “because learning through digital means is normal for us.”

Cheyenne enjoyed many CCA field trips and activities. She had fun attending her junior prom and was on the 2020 prom committee but, she says wryly, “that didn’t work out too well.” She loves roller skating to disco music, so she always signed up for roller skating events. On one field trip, she got to laser-tag her then-history teacher, as they formed a mock rivalry in the woods.

Socializing is easy at CCA, Cheyenne says. She has made friends through prom and with the children of CCA family mentors who, like her mother, help new families navigate and succeed in online learning. 

“I’ve made friends who live four hours north of me,” she says. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of CCA students, and I think that’s what makes it so special.”

Before she goes to college, Cheyenne will take a year to work and strive for financial independence. A future in education or psychology is possible, inspired in part by an internship inside CCA administration. Sitting in on board meetings showed her the administrative and policymaking gears whirring behind the scenes to deliver a sound learning experience.

“I got to watch and learn how prepared they are,” she says. “They’re so strong, and it makes me feel so safe in this school.”

CCA taught Cheyenne the value of independence.

“You won’t get very far without taking responsibility for your own journey,” she says. “That requires showing up every day. That requires taking initiative. Those skills are going to benefit me a lot in jobs I have in the future. It’s going to make me stand out in everyday work life.”

As graduation came around, Cheyenne contacted her teachers to thank them for everything they did to make her feel calm and safe. They taught her that teachers don’t have to be punitive or harsh, like her second grade teacher, but can create a positive experience by being supportive and loving.

“A lot of them are very close to my heart,” she says. “I can’t tell you how proud I am to be graduating from this school.”




July 7th, 2020


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