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Crossing put troubled teen on right course

By JOSEPH DITS Tribune Staff Writer SOUTH BEND — The suicide note that Andrea Gyokeres wrote came after a good sixth grade, then progressively worse pressure from bullies in the seventh and eighth grade. A’s and B’s plummeted to F’s. Bruises. Missed classes. She turned to black hair and clothing, going Goth. “I just wanted to be an outsider,” she recalls. “If I wore black, I thought they’d be afraid to mess with me.” Her mom, Ilona Forstinger, says she pressed officials at Jefferson Intermediate Center to transfer her daughter. Forstinger says her two other children had graduated from South Bend schools without a problem. The transfer didn’t come until that suicide note four months before the end of eighth grade. A stint at Edison didn’t help. She tried Adams, then Riley high schools — same bullies, same problems. Then Andrea came to The Crossing alternative school, where she says, “I made a friend in the first minute.” What made a difference, she says, is that the school had a totally different environment, one where no one made fun of her. “There was a big thing lifted off of my chest,” says Andrea, now 16 and still a student at The Crossing. “They listen before they judge. It’s more like family.” She’d never experienced a school where she could just sit and talk about her life. The faith-based part of it drew her closer to God, too, she says. She gradually let all of her black clothing go. And with more individual attention from teachers and the ability to learn at her own pace, she’s back to A’s and B’s. She holds the same dream that she cultivated years ago: to be a chef. “My daughter — she’s back,” Forstinger says. Forstinger says it shows that alternative schools aren’t just for bad kids — kids can just end up in bad situations. Staff writer Joseph Dits: (574) 235-6158]]>