For two families, an 80-some-mile trek to and from school is worth the guarantee that their students receive a Summit Academy education. Every week, the Lowry/Gaylord and Cindric families, both from southwest Medina County, share carpooling duties to bring their grandsons to Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron. Tristan Cindric, a junior, and Brandon Gaylord, a senior, transferred to Summit Academy in the fifth and sixth grades, respectively, and never looked back.

Lowry -Gaylord family

Brandon Gaylord, a senior at Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron, has a flair for creativity, which he hopes to apply toward a future career in gaming design.

For Brandon Gaylord, coming to Summit Academy six years ago was a bit like coming home. School was a place of comfort, acceptance and belonging, describes Brandon’s grandmother, Lou Ann Lowry. Although the long drive from Chatham Township to Akron is a sacrifice – one the Lowry family shares with the Cindrics through a carpooling arrangement – Lowry says it is worth every mile.

“[Conventional] public school was not the answer. Brandon didn’t want to go to school,” Lou Ann explains. “Now he never tells me he doesn’t want to go to school. He’s very comfortable here.”

Immersed in academics, the school’s Dungeons & Dragons Club and his friendships, Brandon has grown in countless ways since attending Summit Academy, says Lou Ann. He is a strong reader, a self-advocate and a future Eagle Scout.

“He has gone beyond my expectations. He has friends. He’s a happy-go-lucky kid,” Lou Ann says of her grandson.

Lou Ann Lowry chats with Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron Principal Ralph Grant about her grandson Brandon’s progress in school and beyond.

Lou Ann describes the Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron staff as loving and experienced in helping students succeed. “The teachers are very compassionate, very patient,” she says. “I commend them.”

With graduation just around the corner for Brandon, the future looks bright. Brandon hopes to attend college and study video game design. The family, with support from the school, is researching colleges and programs that fit the bill.

Brandon already has a leg up on his creative career pursuit. His great-grandfather, Paul Lowry, was an accomplished process artist who painted movie posters. He ultimately turned down an artist position with the then-little known Walt Disney Studios. We’re betting on Brandon to carry out his great-grandfather’s legacy, but instead of on a silver screen, on a gaming monitor. It’s a sure win!


Cindric Family

Tristan Cindric drums a song on the steel pans. He is a member of the Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron Steel Band, which performs at community events throughout the year.

Five years ago, when Tristan Cindric and his grandparents, Bernadette and Joe Cindric, of Spencer Township, visited Summit Academy Akron Elementary School for the first time, they were struck by the portraits displayed in the main hallway. Images of Vincent Van Gogh, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and several other famous figures  filled the wall.

“These were intelligent, bright, professional people who used their [disabilities] to make things better for themselves,” says Bernadette, correlating the gallery display to Summit Academy’s learning-without-limits focus.

Bernadette says Summit Academy teachers and staff understand not just the hurdles autism and ADHD may present to students, but how to navigate through them. She says that Tristan, who has a high IQ yet learning challenges, has grown exponentially as a writer, budding scientist and Steel Band musician and has career sights on becoming a zookeeper.

From left, Joe Cindric; Ralph Grant, Principal of Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron; and Bernadette Cindric.

“Summit Academy looks at individual students, finds out what they need to do to succeed and sets up a program to help children succeed,” she says, attributing this education model to Tristan’s success academically and socially.

Tristan says he appreciates that his school community celebrates individuality and inclusion.

“When I was in my previous school it felt like I was just a blueberry in a bowl of cherries. I didn’t really fit in,” he describes. “When I went to Summit Academy, though, I became a blueberry in a bowl of blueberries. Today I’m realizing it’s not really a bowl of blueberries I’m in. It’s more of a fruit salad. Everyone is different in their own way … It’s what make us unique.”

Tristan spends summer months working on the family’s 113-acre forest, marking invasive trees, building animal shelters, piling brush and performing other tasks akin to his love of nature and future plan to study zoology.

Joe adds that programs such as therapeutic martial arts, provided as PE curriculum at Summit Academy – Akron elementary and middle schools, offer grounding and support students’ needs for physical activity. Both Joe and Bernadette have martial arts training. For Tristan, who works on the family’s 113-acre property after school and during summers, the physical and discipline-focused ethos of martial arts complement their grandson’s work ethic, say the Cindrics.

Curriculum aside, Tristan says he appreciates the sense of belonging he feels at Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron.

“It’s a mixture of things,” Tristan says, describing what he enjoys most about school. “It’s the friends, the teachers, the positivity. You can find something positive almost anywhere here. It’s nice to be here.”