An ‘alternative program to an alternative program’
By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — This fall, struggling Anderson students will have yet another option when The Crossing Educational Center opens.
With 16 campuses throughout Indiana, the alternative school targets students under the age of 19 who have either dropped out or are struggling; such as those who are not doing well or not allowed in Anderson Community Schools’ current alternative programs, including students who have been in and out of the Department of Correction.
ACS Superintendent Felix Chow said it would be an “alternative program to an alternative program.”
The school board unanimously voted in favor of a partnership with the state-accredited school on April 9. On Monday afternoon, officials from The Crossing, ACS and Anderson University spoke during an information session at the Flagship.
According to Executive Director Rob Staley, The Crossing has had kids from extremely tough home lives and even, in larger cities, opposing gang members who “shoot at each other on the weekend and sit in the same classroom on Monday.”
Their goal, he said, is to transform the students’ lives through education, job training and placement and a faith-based mission that helps develop character.
“The kids can go out and make things happen, they just need the framework,” he said.
JaQuann Cole, 21, was one of two students from the Marion campus who spoke at the session. He dropped out of school when he was 17 because, he said, he was immature, didn’t have the attention span for school and had a problem with authority.
“I didn’t worry about how I was affecting other people,” he said. “It became just about me.”
Cole added he just needed guidance. He heard about The Crossing shortly after he got out of jail and said his probation officer thought it’d be good for him.
“I needed change,” he said. “She didn’t make me do it. It was something I had to do myself.”
He added he doesn’t feel judged at The Crossing where he receives the support he needs.
At 21 years of age, Cole would have likely been directed to the Excel Center in Anderson. Staley said it targets adults who are seeking a diploma while The Crossing tends to focus on younger students grades 9-12 — Marion just doesn’t have an Excel Center to allow them to do that.
Anderson Excel Director Joe White said he’s glad to see a “more proactive approach to addressing the need” in Anderson and added that The Crossing could be a good partner.
Staley added The Crossing would serve up to 75 students in Anderson.
While the Excel Center is a partner of ACS, it works as a separate entity. At The Crossing, students will still, essentially, be a part of ACS and receive a diploma from the corporation, Chow noted.
“We’re nothing more than a long hallway down the road,” Staley said, adding the goal is to get the students back into Anderson High School.
He added that 89 percent of students who do graduate directly from The Crossing pass the ISTEP and End of Course Assessments.
Anderson University is teaming with the alternative school to assist with its Xtreme Program, where students develop their own small businesses, such as a lumber-cutting service, Staley said.
Terry Truitt, dean of the Falls School of Business, said AU students are already working on entrepreneur ideas to address what’s needed in the area and answer “what can they (Crossing students) do here.” He added it’s a great opportunity for AU students to learn while helping others learn.
The Crossing Educational Center will open its doors Aug. 1.
Staley said a location for the alternative school hasn’t been pinned down yet and that ACS will have to approve any students who attend. An intent-to-enroll form can be found at www.crossingeducation.com along with more information.
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