Potential Development Students Earn Diplomas

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Logan Johnston’s journey at Potential Development started in April 2018 when he began attending the school and found, for the first time, a teacher whom he felt truly understood him.

“I would just like to start off by saying, I don’t know where I would be without this school,” Johnston said. “This school has changed my life and it really was the best thing that has happened to me.”

Potential Development, a pre-K through 12th grade school for students with autism, celebrated the graduation July 7 of 14 seniors, including Johnston, at Stambaugh Auditorium. The ceremony brings the number of graduates to nearly 80 in the past 10 years.

Johnston talked about many teachers and staff who welcomed him, joked with him, good-heartedly recognized the Browns-Steelers football rivalry with him, accepted him for who he is and taught him a lot about himself. Johnston said he wishes he could repay them.

Johnston also recognized the friends he made among his peers. He specifically mentioned the girlfriend he is leaving behind at Potential Development, his teammates on the basketball team and other friends who remained even during times when they did not see eye-to-eye.

Finally, Johnston acknowledged his mother, who recognized he was not doing well in his other school and helped him find his way to Potential Development. “She took the initiative to send me here, and I’m really grateful,” he said.

Paul Garchar, CEO of Potential Development, said it was great to have a senior share so many of his memories about his time at the school and recognize the impact it will have on his life going forward.

“For students like Logan, Potential Development offers a very individualized approach for each student, based on his abilities,” Garchar said.

Some of the graduates will go on to work part-time like Johnston, who is employed at Rulli Brothers. Others may go to college, work training programs or to supportive program placements.

“Every student comes at a different point in their educational journey,” Garchar said. “Some are on the lower end of the spectrum; some are high functioning and will go on to college. But we’re there to help every single student, and we’re proud of that.”

Pictured at top: Logan Johnston gives his address at the Potential Development graduation.