St. Landry

Apr 20, 2011 7:22 PM by Melissa Hawkes

Two Acadiana Alternative Schools Could Lose State Funding

Two alternative schools in Acadiana may be closing their doors due to state budget cuts.
The Volunteers of America Juvenile Day Program and Alternative school has two campuses-one in Lafayette and another in Opelousas.
It costs 1.9 million dollars a year to run both schools, which in the past has received funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice. State funding will stop in June. Opelousas Program Director, Tonya Bolden-Ball, said their school is often the last chance for troubled teenagers to get an education.
"They have potential, rather they've been adjudicated by the court system or whatever negative stereotype that's been placed upon them," she explained. "We tell them to erase that and lets create a new label."
Ball said the programs goal is to keep children out of jail and get them back on track by teaching them life skills.
Parent Mary Strauss, said "they are really nice kids. They just need someone to work with them and give them courage and they find it here."
The skills students learn reach far beyond the classroom. They do community service, learn how to live independently and receive constant guidance from counselors.
If the schools closes, more than eighty students will need to look for a new school. Ball said that will be hard because many have been turned away from previous schools.
Eighth grader, Fabian Strauss, said "the teachers always find time to talk to the kids. If we are discouraged, they encourage us and teach us right from wrong."
Strauss choose to come to the Opelousas alternative school for a different reason than most. He said he just wanted a new environment. He doesn't want to leave and said he fears for the future of his classmates.
"If this school was to close down then they'd be in the streets or wind up in jail," he said.
His mom added, "I wish everyone would join together as a team and do whatever they can to keep the school going because they children need it."

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