Students’ first year of high school is critically important. How often 9th-grade students attend school and how well they do in school has an outsize impact on whether they will eventually graduate.
So it did not bode well when Malik Gore started skipping class as a freshman at a high school in South Atlanta.
“I got caught up in the drama, and it really took a toll on me,” he said.
Malik ended up at Phoenix Academy, a second-chance school on the Crim open campus in East Atlanta. That’s where he encountered a system of support that has helped put him on the verge of graduating from high school this spring.
Key to Malik’s success has been the Phoenix Academy staff and the programming of, the local chapter of the Save Kids of Incarcerated Parents program. During the 2020-21 school year, SKIP Georgia received a grant from the redefinED atlanta Innovation Fund to support counseling sessions it offers students at five Atlanta schools, including Phoenix Academy. The sessions run from 5:00-7:00 p.m. and offer students an opportunity to decompress, participate in trauma-informed care, and connect with peers.
Most of the participating students are high school seniors, and much of the recent discussion in the counseling sessions has been about navigating this momentous time educationally, in the midst of a pandemic. SKIP Georgia has provided additional support to the students through grants from the United Way of Greater Atlanta* and Dollar General Literacy Foundation as well as additional programming like a Sunday Brunch & Munch where older students mentor younger students.
The system is working.
Nikaya Winfrey graduated high school with the support of the Phoenix Academy-SKIP Georgia partnership and is now a student at Atlanta Technical College, preparing to become a dental hygienist.
“I have reached so many things I didn’t even think were possible,” she said.
Both Nikaya and Malik credit Phoenix Academy staff members like Theresa Mullins, who is the school’s site coordinator for SKIP Georgia.
“I’m responsible for their needs getting met, not just academics but wraparound services,” Mullins said. “We do the social and emotional, we do the mental health, we do food services, emergency funding, going to college, trying to place them in the best way possible.”
Because of the support that he received from Phoenix Academy and SKIP Georgia, Malik has fully recovered from his rocky start to high school. This summer, he is scheduled to take classes at Morehouse College.
Looking back, Malik says, “It was a minor setback for a major comeback.”
* redefinED atlanta is also a proud partner of the United Way of Greater Atlanta and receives support as a Child Well-Being Impact Fund “Strong Learners” grantee for their work advancing parent advocacy in public schools.