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Center for Excellence

AWARE’s Lawrence P. Noonan Center for Excellence Academy is a private school dedicated to helping emotionally disturbed, diverse and at‐risk children excel academically, using developmentally appropriate, individualized and relationship‐based strategies. Our education philosophy emphasizes that Center for Excellence will best serve its students by addressing the unique characteristics and behaviors of ALL students, whether typical or non‐typical, rather than stereotyped labels. 


AWARE has been operating the Center for Excellence since 2014, in Anaconda, Montana, and is an extension to AWARE’s youth residential program. The Center for Excellence educates students and provides access to innovative technology such as Smart Boards, iPads, and laptops. Math, science, reading, social studies, health and wellness, and art are all part of each child’s curriculum.  Additionally, AWARE’s day treatment services provide on-site therapy and group support.


AWARE recently (fall 2022) transitioned the Center for Excellence into a private school, a school-based mental health pilot, to increase the availability of mental health services in Montana’s schools.  While a few school-based mental health programs are present in Montana, the successful implementation of the Center for Excellence pilot will create a pathway for AWARE to scale up programs in every community by providing similar school-based mental health learning. As AWARE continues to invest in such programs, understanding factors that contribute to a school-based mental health program’s success, as well as the obstacles, will make such investments most effective.


AWARE’s Center for Excellence takes a distinguished approach, concentrating on full inclusion that honors students’ cognitive strengths and gifts, rather than the perspective of student deficits.

For questions about the Center for Excellence contact:

Jenn Wihlborg, Mental Health Residential Service Director


Ann Campbell, CFE Day Treatment Coordinator



Take a walk around campus

The Center for Excellence’s building exterior provides a dramatic landmark for Anaconda’s entryway with rich architectural stonework and tasteful color finishes. The school tower and kite-like roof lines keep students and staff aspirations reaching for the sky. 

The school is filled with four classrooms, staff offices, a gymnasium and lunchroom. 

Its grounds are landscaped with a picnic shelter, gardens, and a variety of areas to help kids be physically active and healthy. The outdoor activity fields include basketball courts, swing sets, tether ball play area, and a full-size sports field. ​


Center for Excellence History

AWARE’s Center for Excellence opened for students on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2014. The project is the first development in the Anaconda-Deer Lodge County East Yards subdivision.


This specialized school is part of AWARE’s services that were historically been provided on the Galen campus and moved to Anaconda in 2012.


Vision, Mission and Values

Vision:  ALL students, regardless of their status, will benefit through Center for Excellence educational programs with appropriate, individualized therapeutic supports. ALL Students will receive their education within an inclusive, dignified, and least restricted environment that encourages respect and trust. Center for Excellence will create a student environment where any student with or without an IEP can thrive, academically and socially. 

Mission: Center for Excellence is dedicated to a continuing tradition of excellence in an ever-changing world. Within a safe and supportive environment, we provide a therapeutic environment where relevant, high-quality education can be delivered to prepare students for graduation, future endeavors, and to thrive, academically and socially. 

Values:  The staff and community of AWARE’s Center for Excellence value inclusive, diverse, and quality education.  All staff are expected to adopt an improvement mindset that focuses on student success.  To this end, AWARE’s Center for Excellence has a thorough professional development program to support teachers and staff in providing the highest quality of instruction possible.  Additionally, the school has placed a high priority on the concepts of diversity, inclusive, behavioral health, and lifelong learning.  Current initiatives supporting those ideas include the school advisory council, the full integration of special needs students into the classrooms, and a therapeutic, trauma informed discipline program that includes strength-based perspectives, reconciliation, and restorative justice. 


About Cognia

AWARE is accredited through Cognia. Cognia is a global network of educators that help strengthen schools. Their holistic approach to continuous improvement encompasses accreditation and certification, assessment, professional learning, and customized improvement services. They are recognized by the departments of education in all 50 states and the US Department of Education. Any credentials coming from schools accredited under this agency are widely accepted by colleges and universities in the US and Internationally.  

During the review of AWARE’s Center for Excellence, Cognia noted that AWARE shows strength in its Culture of Learning category. Each person interviewed during the process expressed a deep level of satisfaction with the openness and collegiality of the organization. Strong team environment, passion for the field, and support for one another were common themes among the comments. Other areas reviewed included Leadership for Learning, Engagement for Learning, and Growth for Learning, all of which received exceptional remarks. 

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