In the late 1960’s, the Greater Philadelphia area saw an increase in private schools designed for elementary aged children with learning differences. Unfortunately, the same opportunities were not available for adolescents. Programs for teens tended to be one dimensional, oriented only toward vocational training, or were designed to mix students of different exceptionalities. In the public sector, these children were treated as marginal “products” – barely worth the cost of educating.
Elissa L. Fisher, Ed.M., saw great potential in these children and was determined to meet their needs appropriately. As a result, she set out to design an educational environment in which adolescents with learning disabilities could thrive. The result was a program with several critical components:
- Small Classes
- Appropriate combinations of Academics and Small Group Therapy
- Equal Focus on Training in Basic Skills and Subject Matter
- Realistic Experiences that Teach Coping with Success and Failure
- Graduating with a High School Diploma
Mrs. Fisher understood that such an undertaking would require significant financial backing in order to be successful. Unfortunately, tuition alone would not support such an extraordinary endeavor and acceptance of state subsidized funds presented a danger of permanently stigmatizing students with labels that would impede their success. And so, she shared her vision with friends, relatives, colleagues, board members, and foundations who pooled their financial resources to fund this important need.
This support helped Mrs. Fisher realize her goal on September 12, 1971, with the opening of The Hill Top Preparatory School. That day, a faculty of six met four students. Since then, Hill Top Preparatory School held classes in several locations after its founding in a small area at Cabrini College. In 1976, Hill Top opened the doors to its new home in Rosemont, PA.
The picturesque twenty-five acre campus allowed enrollment to increase and curriculum to grow to incorporate more arts, athletics, and STEM programs, as well as many additional extracurricular activities appropriate for its unique student body.
Hill Top continues to be successful because of its committed faculty and staff, as well as its dedicated supporters who realize that such a program which meets the complex academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of students with learning differences requires appropriate resources.
Today, Hill Top remains on the cutting edge of providing innovative approaches for students with learning differences to gain the self-confidence and academic skills necessary to succeed in college and afterwards. Each year, we look forward to continued growth and take pride in the fact that Hill Top remains a superior school where students with learning differences thrive and believe in their abilities to reach their dreams.