Vance County Schools Youth Empowerment Academy

Pictured are Reginald Moore, a teacher at Henderson Middle School, assisting a student with online instruction at the Youth Empowerment Academy.

Pictured are Reginald Moore, a teacher at Henderson Middle School, assisting a student with online instruction at the Youth Empowerment Academy.

A total of eight middle school students, who are currently on long-term suspension, are receiving academic support through the new Vance County Schools Youth Empowerment Academy.

The academy has been operating for the last few weeks in a portion of the old two-story building across from the campus of Eaton-Johnson Middle School.

The academy, under the direction of Dr. Ralphel Holloman and with support from several local educational professionals, is located in the rear, ground-floor wing of the building.

Students work in a large classroom, have special activities in an adjoining classroom and take advantage of two conference rooms for discussions with school counselors, social workers and other professionals. The counselors and social workers come over each week from Eaton-Johnson and Henderson middle schools. Reginald Moore, a member of the faculty at Henderson Middle, also works each day with the students.

The eight students are all male. They work individually, with teacher supervision, on computers for language arts and other instruction and also take part in teacher-led math instruction at least two days each week. The students must provide their own transportation to and from the academy Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. They eat breakfast and lunch each day at the academy.

Holloman said two of the students are homebound, but they do come to the Youth Empowerment Academy a couple of days each week to receive math instruction. The other six students attend the academy each day.

The Youth Empowerment Academy became operational almost four weeks ago after careful planning by school system administrators, led by Superintendent Anthony Jackson and Assistant Superintendent Cindy Bennett, and with approval from the Vance County Board of Education.

Holloman noted that the academy is designed to work individually with the long-term suspended students to keep them engaged in their academics while they must remain separated from the student body in their respective middle schools. He also stressed that the students’ participation requires total “buy in” by their parents or guardians to support the academy’s efforts and follow through with their parental commitment and involvement.

“We also have special speakers who come in to talk with the students periodically and we use life skills training to address their behavior issues,” Holloman said. “The counselors and social workers also are very valuable in talking individually with students about their behavior and other problems.”

The students recently participated in a Saturday field trip to Saint Augustine’s University with Holloman and Moore to tour the campus and talk with students and professors.

“If all goes well, these students will transition back to their home middle school next year,” Holloman added. “But, they have to meet certain expectations. They will take their state end-of-grade tests here and must make a certain level on the tests and also have good behavior before going back to their home school.”

Holloman said future plans for the academy include instruction for female students who are long-term suspended. The instructional program for the academy keeps male students and female students separated.

“Overall, it is going very well,” Holloman said. “The students are committed and so are their parents. We keep in close touch with their parents and grandparents. I think that is important and I think they appreciate the support.”