Alternative Paths: SeeWorth Academy fosters students through leadership

Students browse the library at Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy’s south campus, 3806 N. Prospect Ave. (Mark Hancock)

Students browse the library at Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy’s south campus, 3806 N. Prospect Ave. (Mark Hancock)

Editor’s note: As discussions continue about discipline and whether there are enough alternative schools and programs to meet unique needs of some students in Oklahoma City public schools, Oklahoma Gazette explores alternative paths available that help students graduate high school with the skills needed to enter adulthood.

This story is part of an ongoing series.

Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy was launched in 1998 by its namesake to reach out and embrace youth who were having the hardest of times. The school still embraces that mission.

SeeWorth accepts any student who wants to complete their K-12 education. It might be an unusual model for a charter school, but it’s one director Janet Griggs takes pride in.

“I can always count on Janet Griggs to take a student that no one else is ready to take,” said Teri Bell, executive director of student support services for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Under Bell’s direction, the district’s alternative education committee recommends programs for students in the district who have been suspended. It is a crucial juncture for youths left adrift in uncertainty, especially about their futures.

Some spend time in short-term alternative settings before returning to their home schools.

However, some don’t want to return, and others might not be allowed to. SeeWorth public-charter alternative school might be the lifeboat those students need.

Once a student arrives at SeeWorth, they are expected to behave responsibly. Students there understand it’s their opportunity to finish school. Its atmosphere is a unique mix of care and attention enhanced by the encouragement and leadership of its students.

Student leaders

Leadership Group members show positive leadership within the student body. Before being accepted into the group, they work hard to improve their grades.

Its president is Rubin Avila, who has been at SeeWorth for four years and knows firsthand the positive outcomes that can come from the program.

But he wasn’t always a positive leader.

“I’ve changed a lot. … When I first came here, if someone said something, I would get up in their face,” Avila said. “I’ve been to schools where you go to the office mad and they just send you home. Here, you stay with a counselor and talk.”

Group members are trained to reach out to students and foster immediate connections as they arrive at the school. Student leadership at SeeWorth is key. The school has found success in training student leaders to encourage others to achieve from within instead of just to please adults.

Seeing potential

Many SeeWorth teachers also have found ways to nurture student potential. Music instructor and 12-year veteran Henry Rice is one of them.

He said that “seeing and inspiring potential” is how a teacher moves a student forward.

“Man, I just love to see potential, no matter how small it is,” Rice said.

Rice’s students practiced “I’m Going to Succeed,” a song Abreyanna Shealy wrote several years ago, in seventh grade, after she arrived at the school.

Comparing who she was then and is now, she spoke about how she changed since arriving at SeeWorth. Her story is similar to those of many of her peers.

“I was disrespectful; I didn’t like to listen to anybody. I had a hard time understanding the truth sometimes, but I worked through it,” Shealy said. “SeeWorth has helped me a lot with that.”

Another of Rice’s students, Shania Richard, summed up how many feel about the school.

“SeeWorth is my family,” Richard said.

 

Print headline: Golden rule, Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy sees success by teaching students to lead and encourage each other.

Brett Dickerson

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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