High school years, for the students, are more often one of the most formative years of their lives. In the first year of high school, how well they do often determines their attitude and whether they will eventually graduate.
When Malik Gore started skipping class as a freshman at a high school in South Atlanta, things were about to turn for the worse for him. “I got caught up in the drama, and it really took a toll on me,” Gore said.
Malik’s habits brought him to Phoenix Academy, a second-chance school on the Crim open campus in East Atlanta. There, Malik found a support system that helped put him back on track towards graduating high school this spring.
With the help of the Phoenix Academy staff and the local chapter of the Save Kids of Incarcerated Parents program (SKIP), Malik managed to pull through.
During the semester between 2020 and 2021, SKIP Georgia received a RedefinED Atlanta Innovation Fund grant to support counseling sessions. SKIP Georgia provided the sessions at five schools in Atlanta, including Phoenix Academy. They offered students an opportunity to decompress, take part in trauma-informed care and connect with friends and peers going through similar situations.
During the pandemic, SKIP Georgia also provided additional support to students through grants from the United Way of Greater Atlanta and Dollar General Literacy Foundation, as well as programs like the Sunday Brunch and Much where older students get to mentor younger students.
The system proved to be beneficial to Nikaya Winfrey, who managed to graduate with the help of the partnership. Nikaya is now enrolled at the Atlanta Technical College, where she is studying to become a dental hygienist.
Both Nikaya and Malik are grateful for the support from Phoenix Academy staff members like Theresa Mullins, 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.”