Taylor Frazier, 13, of Niles was scheduled to graduate recently from the Fresh Start Program, which gives expelled students a second change to return to school. "I was a very good student ... but I have a big mouth," said Frazier, who was kicked out of school after she brought a knife to school. (Star file photo)
Taylor Frazier, 13, of Niles was scheduled to graduate recently from the Fresh Start Program, which gives expelled students a second change to return to school. "I was a very good student ... but I have a big mouth," said Frazier, who was kicked out of school after she brought a knife to school. (Star file photo)

Archived Story

An open house for a fresh start

Published 10:55am Thursday, February 25, 2010

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

For students who have found themselves caught up in trouble and expelled from the classroom, a program called Fresh Start has been helping those kids start over.

In fact, the program has been helping students from many area schools, including Niles, Brandywine, Buchanan and even Berrien Springs for 15 years and Friday an open house will be held for interested parents and students who want to get a second chance at their education.

“Whenever anybody says ‘expelled,’ right away” there is an assumption that students won’t be able to redeem themselves, said Charlie McAfee, manager of the program.
Fresh Start works against that assumption.

“We do all these things to get your real life grades and everything back on track,” McAfee said.

Speaking with the Star in a previous interview, Taylor Frazier said she was 12 years old when she brought a knife to school, leading to her expulsion in the seventh grade.

“I was a very good student, but I have a big mouth,” she said.

Enrolling in the Fresh Start Program, expelled students are taken into a smaller, more focused setting to work on their attitude, attendance and grades.

“You have more one-on-one time,” Taylor said.

At the time she spoke to the Star, Taylor, who began working through the program last April, was expected to graduate from Fresh Start in early winter. Today, she dreams of becoming a Harvard Law School student.

“When I get back to school, I plan to finish school and go to law school,” Taylor said.
McAfee said students are tested when they enter into the program so their actual grade level can be assessed.

The same materials used in their classrooms are used to teach students through the program.

“Fresh Start’s really good at letting the kids know what they have to do and in most cases it’s about attitude and effort,” Niles superintendent Doug Law said.

Last year, McAfee said a Buchanan student who went through the program went back to school and went on to graduate with honors.

“You can’t give up on the students, they’re too important,” she said. “They’re our hope for the future, they’re our dreams.”

After completing the program, McAfee said Fresh Start works with the schools, parents and students to petition schools to allow the students back in.

A panel of three administrators decides upon the expulsion of students, Law said and those three administrators are the same to hear a student’s petition to be reenrolled.
“Most kids get back in eventually,” Law said.

McAfee will speak during the open house, being held at the Michiana Christian Embassy on Friday, from 6-7 p.m. as will current and past parents and students who have benefitted from the program.

Katie Johnson contributed to this report.

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