Kyler, Trinity, Drew and Jordan pose for a quick picture on their first day of the 2018-2019 school year at Summit Academy in Columbus

Four kids, 2,043 miles and one mother dedicated to her children’s education begin to tell the story of a family’s journey from Puyallup, Washington to Ohio and Summit Academy Community School in Columbus. It might not have been the easiest route to education, but it was worth the sacrifices and struggles that came with it, says Julee Cousineau.

Cousineau, a 46-year-old mother of four, packed up her children, two cats and dog, Lucy, in a van in summer 2017 for the one-way, life-changing trip. Cousineau says her research pointed to Summit Academy as a school that would meet her children’s respective education needs.

“Getting here was kind of like going down a rabbit hole,” explains Cousineau. “My children needed a school that supported their individual learning styles while teaching them at their ability levels. There was no other school like Summit out there.”

Cousineau spent a year studying the school extensively and acclimating her children to the concept of moving to a new state.

“I took them on a summer trip where we took 15 days and camped in five different states,” says Cousineau, adding that she told her children about the school and her plans for the family’s prospective move to Columbus about six months later. “I was relieved that they were all excited.”

By all accounts, the family made the right move. Cousineau’s children, Trinity, 14, Drew, 14, Jordan, 12, and Kyler, 10, rose to the occasion with successful performances on state exams and their smooth transition to new school surroundings, which include teachers like Carol Padilla, whom Cousineau praises for “getting” her children and working with them.

Padilla, who teaches fourth- and fifth-grade reading and social studies, works thoughtfully to deliver education with compassion and an undeniable depth of understanding for her students, including two of Cousineau’s children. “It’s not willingness, but wanting to accommodate students so they can be successful,” Padilla says of her approach to helping identify and navigate around obstacles that would otherwise interfere with a student’s ability to learn.

Success has come in steady strides.

“All of the children are doing great. They are all good, well-behaved, smart students,” says school Principal Cheryl Elliott, who recalls the hurdles Cousineau overcame, seeking enrollment for all four of her children at a time Summit Academy Community School in Columbus was at full capacity. “I remember how excited she was to get them all in.”

Rewind two years, to the moment Cousineau and her children pulled up the driveway to the house they had rented online, sight unseen, with a future of uncertainty ahead.

“If I chose to move and it was the wrong decision, my children would be miserable and there wouldn’t be much I could do to recover from the relocation,” Cousineau reflects.

This past summer, Cousineau renewed her lease, expressing with delight, “the house is perfect.”

Likewise, the family’s growing support system, network of friends and expectations for Summit Academy Community School in Columbus have fallen into place, making the move worthwhile beyond Cousineau’s highest hopes.

“When I look back at the journey and all that I risked in making it happen, I feel so grateful that I trusted my journey,” Cousineau says. “It was the best decision.”