Celebrating Family Success

Jackson in his living room


When Jackson came home from the first day of his three-day visit at Key School, his first words were “I want to go to this school.” That was the Spring of 2021 and his grandparents Kanani Mahelona and Ralph Wynn quickly signed him up for the next school year.   Jackson’s early life was a struggle. He was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that damages the lungs, and creates complications for the digestive tract and other organs.

Jackson’s medical issues are significant, with regular breathing treatments and nutritional supplements to ensure he is getting the proper nutrients. Jackson also has learning differences including dysgraphia, ADHD, developmental trauma, and executive function deficits.  Life for Jackson was challenging not only because of his medical issues  and learning differences, but also adjusting to being the center of a family  separating around him. Kanani and Ralph were active in his life but they  lived in New York City, over 1,500 miles away. They continuously came back  to Fort Worth to take care of Jackson as needed. Jackson’s struggles at  home and his learning differences caused many behaviorial concerns at  school. He went to various public and private schools but could not find  the right fit. At the end of his third grade year in 2019, after much discussion  Kanani and Ralph, quit their jobs in New York and moved permanently  to Fort Worth, and took on homeschooling Jackson and providing that  stabilizing environment for him. While Kanani homeschooled him during the  day, Jackson split his nights and weekends with his parents. Once COVID  hit, it made the most sense for him to live with his grandparents at what  they affectionately call “Gramp Camp” in order to ensure a protection for  Jackson from contracting COVID-19 because of his compromised immune  system. He stayed in lock down for the end of 4th grade and much of 5th  with Kanani and Ralph. It became apparent that Jackson was missing out  on socialization skills from homeschooling, and the family began to look for  other opportunities in spring of 2021. Through a friend, Kanani and Ralph  learned of Key School and scheduled that tour and three-day visit.

Jackson and Kanani

“Key School was a gamechanger. The way the school has handled when  he does have his moments was amazing. At previous schools, when he  couldn’t keep it together, he was punished. The supportive environment  was just so powerful at Key.”

Before starting at Key School that fall in 6th grade, Jackson advocated  for himself to make living at “Gramp Camp” permanent during the school  week; and so now Kanani and Ralph are full-time “parents”, Kanani says,  “The way he was learning and his attitude at Key School: it was all worth  the journey.” Kanani says what sets Key School apart is that they are in  “partnership with the parent” and not as opposing forces.

Jackson, Kanani and Ralph are all thriving at Key School. Kanani serves  as one of the leaders of Key Community, the parent volunteer group,  and as social media guru for the Facebook group. Kanani spends much  of his time coordinating volunteer opportunities and promoting all the  activities to parents on how they can be involved. Kanani also serves on the  Advancement Committee and will be serving on the board in Fall of 2023.

“Kanani is such an inspiration to our parents and is a bundle of energy. He  brings such insight and enthusiasm with working with our volunteers. We  could not do our Key Community group without him.” Melinda Johnson,  Director of Advancement said.

Kanani said, “Jackson is sold on Key School and so are we. Never any  question, this was going to be the place for him.”