New school helps teen gets new lease on life

Bailey Baker is no stranger to tough obstacles in life. Diagnosed with both ADHD and Asperger’s at a young age, he found himself a victim of relentless bullying.

“A lot of it was name-calling. It was words. Very, very harsh words,” says Bailey.

As those words slowly began to break Bailey’s spirit, he often found himself in trouble at school.

“Kids would say things like ‘Hey Bailey, you know, go write this word on the board’ and he would go write it as big as Utah on the board because he wanted them to be his friend.  He would get in trouble for it,” says Bailey’s mother Melanie.

Bailey’s parents became baffled when things like his lunch account would be drained in a matter of days. Eventually, Bailey admitted the truth to his parents. Melanie says that he broke down and said the money was gone because he was paying his bullies.  

Bailey was way behind both academically and socially, the Baker’s knew they had to pull their son from public school. This is when they were introduced to Fusion Academy.

“Once Bailey came to Fusion, we kind of gave him what I like to call an academic hug, we kind of let him know that learning can be fun, and it’s not going to be as difficult as maybe it has been for you in the past,” says Cody Pileski, Head of Fusion Academy in Austin.

Originally started in Southern California nearly 30 years ago, Fusion takes a one-on-one approach to learning along with social elements for students.

“We look at the whole child, and so we approach every single student emotionally, socially and academically,” says Pileski.

For Bailey, it was a life-changing decision to enroll. Bailey’s grades began to come up, and he was making meaningful connections at school.

“He has friends. He has friends that are not only here at school, but he now hangs out with them outside of school,” says Pileski.  

Additionally, he has taken up a love for equestrian sport competitions. With two world championships and many other accolades, he is set to compete in the Houston Rodeo next month with his horse, Copper.

In the rest of his free-time, Bailey builds birdhouses with his father, Keith.  “We go to some of the arts and crafts shows in town and do different things and set up booths.  It is something that has kind of taken off and he enjoys it,” Keith says. 

Despite the strides Bailey has made in all aspects of his life, the Fusion model is a significant financial obligation for the Bakers. When they learned of a rare scholarship opportunity, they applied. Changes of winning were slim.

“My phone rang at like 2:20 something and I was like ok. I’ll be back in a minute and I was starting to tear up because I knew in my mind. They’re calling to tell me he didn’t get it,” says Melanie.

The opposite, however, was true. Bailey received a full scholarship for an entire year.  The Bakers couldn’t be more excited. 

While the scholarship does continue for a whole year, the family isn’t sure where they will come up with future finances. For now, they are taking things step by step.

“He’s happy. I think that is the biggest piece is that when he walks through the door every single day, he has a smile on his face,” says Pileski.