Many people disagree with having school all year round or extending the hours a child has to stay in the classroom. But if people would take some time to think of the logic, it doesn’t seem all that bad. The Neighborhood Academy has implemented this method and has been very successful.

Statistics have stated most teens tend to get into trouble during the time school is let out until the time their parent or guardian is expected home from work. The streets are not the best hangout for teens. Violent crimes are on the rise, and many parents don’t know what to do to keep their children out of this scene. Many parents wishing there was somewhere their child could go, or something they could do to know their child is safe and in good hands are beginning to look to school. A place for their children as a way of keeping them from harm, or just having them engage in an activity to keep them out of trouble would be school. Yes, that’s right, school. And the Neighborhood Academy located in Garfield does just that. It’s a small private school that surrounds at-risk teenagers with knowledge, religion and how to grow better as a person.

Angela Fowler, a student that has graduated from the academy, says, “At my old school no teacher ever told me I would succeed.”

As one teacher said, “The academy is building a ship, while sailing it.”

There are many schools all around the world, but only a few that are making a difference. Schools are meant to provide a safe learning haven that will boost a student’s knowledge. Schools should also help you become a better individual. But, the sad fact is there are not many schools that do that. Not many schools stand out as far as helping teenagers get into colleges or universities, or academically challenging a child to show him or her how smart they truly are.

One school that has made a difference, and deserves some credit is the Neighborhood Academy. This small local school stands out because of what it has done for its students.

It focuses on students starting at eighth through the 12 grades. The purpose of starting this school was to provide a private school for low-income students whose families didn’t have the income to place their child in an up- scale school. Just because a family of a child doesn’t have money should not determine what or how the child is learning. To watch a child’s life end up nowhere because of not gaining the right knowledge or direction, is why co-founder and president Josephine Moore help start the school.

Guinevere Anderson, academy staff director, says the academy recently joined the network of high achievers.

Students go through their proper academics to easily be accepted into a college or university during their senior year. Most times the students go above and beyond with their academics, taking more science, foreign language, or mathematics courses necessary for general admission into post-secondary education. And so far this school has had many success stories. One particular intriguing one about the first four girls who graduated from the academy.

Jana’a Washington, Candycia Thompson, Catherine Moore and Angela Fowler are the four young women who came from harsh circumstances but managed to get through it and  graduate from four-year colleges. These ladies were the first to bring this good news since the population of the academy is small.

All four of made the transition from public schools, where their grades were practically hitting rock bottom, to transferring into the academy and turning their academics around. Thompson was attending Wilkinsburg before coming to the academy and her grades were awful. Her aunt, Katherine Brown, who was also her guardian, took her to an open house at the academy. She enrolled and made a big choice when she got there. She decided to repeat the 10th grade. Thompson didn’t feel she was equipped to excel further. She took the sacrifice on, so when she moved to the 11th grade, she would move on knowing she learned. “I was teased and called dumb,” she says.

Fowler was another young lady who didn’t really seem to think school was a main priority. She was a student at Brashear before becoming a part of the academy. Her dad made her change schools, because he saw her lack of progress at Brashear. At first Fowler hated the switch, but before she knew it she began to enjoy school. As a junior, “I was happy to be back in school!” As a child of nine, she would catch the bus every morning just to get to school. Fowler knew she wanted to make something out of herself. “I came to school with a different attitude. I was thinking if I didn’t study, I wouldn’t be anything, and I wanted to do something with my life,” Fowler said. At Brashear she says she was not being prepared for her tomorrows.

They saw the academy as the answer to their prayers. Moore says, “The academy was my path to excel beyond what is expected.”

The students were accepted by several universities. Washington says, “All my life I have dreamed of a special school, both challenging and caring.”

The students start school at 8 a.m. and do not leave until 7:30 p.m., 220 days of the year. The students begin their day with a few hours of class, some on communication with family and about college, and the seniors have to participate in seminars learning the ropes about college. They also take part in after-school activities volunteering at the Rainbow Kitchen or cleaning and helping out in the community. Students must also join one sport or art club a year. Participation in after-school activities is mandatory.

This school does not just teach what is published in a textbook, they teach students about life. The Neighborhood Academy has made a difference and we hope it continues.

(By Paige K. Mitchell, Courier intern.)

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