At the Greenwood School, Cameron Ferachi found his place to fit in, made academic progress and discovered the courage to stand in front an audience and recite The Gettysburg Address.
The Baton Rouge teen and other students of the Greenwood School are the subject of Ken Burns’ new documentary, “The Address,” airing Tuesday on PBS. Burns’ piece coincides with the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s famous speech at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. The speech lasted just two minutes, but is a yearly mountain to climb for the 50 boys with learning differences enrolled at the Vermont boarding school.
“ I had never done anything like that,” said Ferachi, 18, of taking part in the school’s yearly tradition of learning the address and reciting it before 200 people. “All my friends were encouraging, and we encouraged each other, so we got through it.”
Ferachi has dyslexia, dysgraphia and auditoring processing issues, said his mother, Candi Ferachi.
“He started off in the Catholic school system, and then he went to Brighton, and then he went to Dunham, and none of the programs were really specific to what he needed,” she said.
After learning about and visiting the Greenwood School the prior summer, Candi and Paul Ferachi enrolled their son for the 2012-13 school year.
“He was very happy there,” his mom said.
Making vast strides through the individualized education and structured environment at Greenwood, Cameron Ferachi is back in Baton Rouge for his senior year, is participating in a computer-based homeschool program, and is on track to graduate in May, just like his twin brother and Catholic High senior, Christopher Ferachi.
Some of the Ferachi family, which includes six children in all, traveled back to Vermont two weeks ago for the premiere of “The Address” at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro, Vt., just outside of Putney, where the school is located.
“We went to the premiere, and all the guys reunited,” Candi Ferachi said. “It’s a great movie. I cried the whole time … And I also got to go to Gettysburg with them when they did the field trip, and that was an amazing adventure with Ken Burns guiding the whole tour.”
For the first time in the school’s history, the students traveled to the site they had only seen and learned about in books and from their teachers. With Burns (“The Civil War,” “Jazz,” “Lewis and Clark”) in town, the community was abuzz.
“When we were walking down the street, and people would just stop and say, ‘Is that Ken Burns?’ I definitely realized the realm of his celebrity,” Candi Ferachi said.
“People were staring at us, like with Ken Burns, when we were sitting down eating ice cream,” Cameron Ferachi added. “Ken told us the story behind each site we went to. It was pretty cool, the history aspect of it.”
With high school behind him, he’ll accompany his father and twin brother to Africa this summer to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. A quick week or two home and then it’s off to Canada for a 30-day NOLS (wilderness education) course. He plans a career in the wilderness industry.
“Yeah, maybe a park ranger,” Cameron Ferachi said.