Zaire St. Pierre has big plans for his future. He’s looking forward to graduating in June and dreams of studying horticulture.
Not too long ago, Zaire saw his future a lot differently.
“I was going to drop out,” he said. “I just didn’t fit into ‘regular’ school.”
Then, Zaire was transferred to Phoenix Academy – an alternative education program for Greece Central secondary students who are disengaged from traditional high school and need extra social and emotional support to achieve success. Currently, more than 100 Greece students are enrolled in Phoenix Academy, which is housed at the former West Ridge Elementary School location on Alcott Road.
Assistant Principal Bryon George, who oversees Phoenix Academy, said staff work to build meaningful relationships with students. There’s more one-on-one support at Phoenix and an emphasis on family engagement and helping students learn how to manage their behaviors. Students have success plans and meet regularly with teachers and counselors to ensure they’re on the right track.
This school year, George said, Phoenix increased its emphasis on ensuring students have post-secondary plans. College isn’t the right fit for everyone so the school offers career and technical training programs, partnerships with the military, and an in-house TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion) program, formerly known as the GED.
“Our goal is for students to be successful contributors to the community,” George said.
Of the 32 potential graduates in the program last year, 27 graduated in June, another four graduated in August, and one took the TASC assessment in January 2019. Additionally, students there can get involved in community partnerships and other extracurricular activities.
The staff at Phoenix are very accommodating, according to student Christian Halloway, who says he would never choose to go back to a traditional high school. In fact, most students placed at Phoenix Academy remain there by choice.
Senior Khaliah Moorehead-Edwards said she appreciates the attention she gets from smaller classes sizes and being able to go at her own pace. She also said everyone knows everyone there so for students, Phoenix Academy feels like more like a family than a school.
Both the school and the teens who attend it are beating the odds. Phoenix students are determined to live up to the school’s name by emerging stronger, successful.