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TESTIMONIALS

Melissa Estep 2003-2006
I graduated from Carroll Academy in 2006 receiving the Carroll Academy Swearingen Scholarship to Bethel College where I have remained there for the past three years majoring in Criminal Justice and Sociology. I completed the Carroll Academy 6 month level program on schedule but chose to remain at Carroll Academy for the remainder of my high school career. Mr. Randy Hatch Carroll Academy Senior Administrator and Juvenile Court Director allowed me this opportunity. I played Volleyball and Basketball for three years at Carroll Academy receiving the TSSAA 13-A All-District Honors in Volleyball. I had the opportunity at play Volleyball while attending Bethel College but chose to focus on my academics. Upon graduation from Bethel College I would like to become a Juvenile Court Probation Officer and work with the students at Carroll Academy. I would like to help the Carroll Academy students just as I was helped. Mr. Randy is my mentor and someone I respect a lot. He still checks on me and keeps up with my academic progress.

Brian Stafford January 1999
I attended Carroll Academy in January 1999. There I learned discipline, and a little respect. Eventually, I graduated from Mckenzie High School. Shortly after graduation, I joined the United States National Guard and enrolled in Bethel College where I was a red-shirt for one year in baseball. Two years later I spent one year in Iraq. Upon returning home, I transferred to the University of Tennessee at Martin. I recently graduated with my degree and was hired as a teacher here at the Academy. The experience so far has been awesome. The opportunity to help young people that are in the same position that I was in is what I know that I am supposed to do.

Keshia Shivers 1998-2004
As a kid I made a lot of bad choices. I fought a lot, hung around the wrong crowd, and most of all I had a bad attitude. I was sent to Carroll Academy in 1998, my 7th grade year. I was furious that I had to go but little did I know then the people there were going to change my life. The first day I was told that every student that acts up is sent to Mr. Patrick Steele, my attitude quickly changed. Everything was different at the academy but I felt safe. I never had to worry about the little things anymore. I actually started to like being there after a month or so. I played every sport they had and loved every moment. My grades started to improve and I finally had people that I could talk to without them judging me. Now I can’t lie and say that I never made another mistake because I did, but they gave me another chance and stuck by my side. I was taught that there is always another way to handle my problems instead of fighting. I had a great counselor, Mrs. Shirley Boyd, who always talked me through everything. I never had to worry about her not listening to what I had to say she was always there for me.

I did not have a whole lot growing up, but the people at the academy made sure I never went without. I could call Mr. Randy for any problem I was having and he always took care of me. My senior year I tried out for Bethel College volleyball team and I made it. I graduated from Carroll Academy in 2004 and went off to college. Everything I needed for school Mrs. Shirley bought it; anytime I needed anything I could call the Academy. They came to my games to support me and still do. As an employee of Carroll Academy now, I can see kids lives are still being changed here.

Jeff Watson 1999-2001
It was a strange time in American high school lives. Thanks to the incident at Columbine violence in the hallways was no longer a trademark of inner-city school, but had spread to the suburbs and so finally became worthy of media attention. Little could I have known at the time how tremendously that incident would impact my life. I wore a trench coat daily, and continued to do so following the events, or at least I tried. Apparently the sense of fear had spread far from its source and even reached my school in little Huntingdon,TN. The powers that were in the school were…fair, by their own judgments, in trying to simply speak to me about not wearing it anymore because “things had changed”. However, they were not willing to view the flip-side in which I had done nothing wrong and should hardly be punished for the actions of two individuals so far away. Stubborn as I am I pushed the issue and continued to wear it. It was a losing battle, at least in the short-term.

I found myself thrown out of school and sitting in the office of Mr. Randy Hatch, head of juvenile court below Judge Logan. Randy explained it very simply to me that I had two options. Option the first, sign the papers admitting myself to Carroll Academy for a calendar year and leave without a record, or, roll the dice in court.

I asked for a pen.

The Academy was a whole new world. It consisted of dress codes, drug tests, privileges earned not given, structure and discipline the likes of which I had never encountered in a public school. I suppose to most teenagers this would be viewed as a negative thing, and I was no different. I was miserable in the beginning. Like all things in life though, we learn to adjust and if we look closely enough we find that there is good in everything, a lesson to be learned. For a year I sat and tried to take it in, along the way meeting fascinating people in the form of staff and students. The details seem now somewhat irrelevant, the day to day school life of an adolescent. When the time for graduation from the program came, I thought I had figured it out. I even recall leaving that day and thinking that I would miss the place. It was a nice support system. The faculty cared in a way you don’t tend to find in the public school sphere, they really took an interest in life and progress and seeking to make sure you will be able to not only do well, but also to do good.

I wouldn’t have to miss it for long. I was back the following year thanks to the black sheep mark. The mundane details will be omitted, it was just more school and another shot to learn. The principle at the time approached me my first day back to announce his disappointment and inform me that the curriculum would be a waste of time so I would be sitting in one classroom and reading what was brought to me by faculty. I read a lot of philosophy including Sartre, Nietzsche, Frankl, Dante, and Voltaire. It expanded my mind more than any textbook ever could. This program of study promoted real thought, individual critical analysis of situations, and true reflection and introspection. I decided that public school was not a productive place for me to be, so I made arrangements to drop out and take my GED. Needless to say, I passed brilliantly.

Now we find ourselves at the beginning of the story, the prelude out of the way. I was sitting about the house one day when I got a phone call from Dan-o, who taught art and psychology at the Academy and was responsible for many of the texts I read while acting as a guide on my journey. He told me Carroll Academy was beginning a vocational program that would be housed at Bethel College and wanted to know if I would be interested in working as one of the tutors for the GED prep portion of the program. It sounded like an interesting endeavor and so I agreed.

It gave me the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, and oddly enough play teacher to some of the students I had once sat alongside in a classroom. Because we were housed at Bethel, we had various college faculty come in to speak to the students as a sort of attempt at inspiring them to always strive to attain more. Dan-o spoke with one about trying to get me enrolled, a notion which had not crossed my mind. College was not on my list of things to do, primarily because of the cost and my ignorance of the financial aid opportunities available. We discussed it and on a whim I took my ACT and scored well enough for full funding at Bethel. I only planned to take a class or two to test the waters so to speak. But the financial aid would not be available unless I was taking a full course-load. Two classes multiplied into four, and testing the water turned into years. I loved it.

When it was all said and done I had come even farther as a human being. I have presented research at various symposia, sat as president of Aret?, Bethel’s social science/social service organization, graduated with a degree in Psychology and one in Sociology, left with honors, and a member of the Gamma Beta Phi National Honor Society, amongst other things. I now work biding time until the fall when I should begin work on my Master’s in Sociology, eyes set on the PhD after that.

Taking stock of it is strange, because it all comes back to my time at the Academy. My actions to get there may have been born of pride, but my being there is what set me upon this path. Had I not lived a portion of my life within those walls, I would not have lived another within the walls of Bethel. College, as I said, was not on my agenda but because the Academy took me in, and later employed me, all the other pieces just kind of fell into place. In more ways than one it saved my life, and had no small part in creating my Self. I suppose that looking back we all had our reasons to be there. We all had our opportunity to learn the lessons available, or to turn our backs on them. I cannot speak for anyone else’s experience, but I know that mine has been made infinitely better because the option was available and I chose to embrace it.

While I have heard that not many stories have played out as mine has with college and all, I am forced to wonder if numbers are truly the only measure of success. To view it through a business paradigm, numbers do certainly matter as one seeks a return on an investment. But from a humanistic standpoint, any life touched and pulled from the abyss is reason enough to press on because it does make a difference. Is the world changed? Not yet. But have individual worlds been changed. Absolutely.
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