Rise Above is a non-profit organization in Jackson County that offers high school students who have been displaced an opportunity to stay on track.
“What we do is we focus on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable students. Those students who have been expelled, long-term suspension, or just removed from school. We meet their needs Monday through Friday,” said Neil Fernandes, Executive Director for Rise Above. He said that Rise Above is similar to a school, but has the ability to focus more on tailoring to students who want to get back to the learning environment. “We have teachers, counselors, social workers, all that kind of stuff. We come alongside the student and make sure they don’t fall further behind than they’ve already gotten.”
“Their goal is always to get back into school. It’s a temporary fix for the real goal, which is graduation. When that need is met, we turn them back to the school happy, healthy, and whole,” Fernandes said. Being expelled is a life-changing event, and it requires a step back moment to refocus for those kids, and that’s where Rise Above comes in, “It takes a little bit of courage on their side to kind of pick themselves up, dust themselves off a little bit and realize a mistake was made, move forward from it, and really get going again.”
What makes Rise Above different from other alternatives to traditional education for students that have been displaced is their success rate. The numbers for the state as a whole are abysmal, but Rise Above’s numbers set the bar incredibly high. “Expelled students in Michigan is about a 40% success rate; for us, we’re seeing a 78% success rate,” Fernandes said.
Rise Above does not receive state funding, although they do get some guidance from the schools. Their project is 100% community supported. “We’re supported purely by the community. The bulk of our funding comes from community members: businesses, philanthropic people. The next step is to find more donors.”
For more information on Rise Above, call 517-513-3891.