Wednesday, April 16 2014 10:54 PM EDT2014-04-17 02:54:16 GMT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The U.S. Department of Defense just awarded Hardin County Schools $1 million. What they do with it could rewrite the book for alternative education throughout the country and help military kids struggling in the classroom.
The Brown Street Alternative Education Center in Vine Grove, Ky. tackles a wide variety of abandonment issues, including drugs, sex abuse and emotional abuse. The center plays host to a lot of kids in foster care.
But the faculty and staff takes a different approach to helping troubled students.
"We have a therapeutic school instead of punitive," said Robert King of Hardin County Dropout Prevention. "We have independent and group counseling every week for every single student because we need to address their social and emotion issues."
The reason is that some of these kids are fighting wars in their personal lives. Many, like Dexter Walton, are tied to Fort Knox.
"I actually just got out of jail not too long ago," Dexter said.
That's why the Department of Defense is backing the district's therapeutic approach with a $1 million grant.
"The Department of Defense realizes that the military dependents are under a lot of stress right now," said King. "Sometimes you have father and mother gone at the same time, and when they come back, they're not the same mentally or physically. The D.O.D. realized that the social-emotional aspect is key, so they want to partner with us."
Dexter said he is warmed by the center.
"The feeling I get when I step into these doors is a welcome," said Dexter. "It's like, 'hey I'm here to give you a second chance and it's up to you to decide if you want to take it or not.'"
The three-year award will support new computers and online credit recovery software, a new career counseling program and a new faculty position to do outreach in the Hardin County schools with the greatest military population, seeking out students at risk of dropping out.
"When I found out we were awarded that grant, I was ecstatic," said one teacher. "It's really gong to take our program to another level."
"I have a really big imagination," said Dexter. "I want to do a lot of things. I want to go to Germany...help a lot of people. I want to be the first man on Mars."
Two classes away from graduation, Walton said teachers are helping exchange the shameful feeling of incarceration for something else.
"Like, I've accomplished something," said Dexter.
Hardin County's dropout rate has dropped to 15.4 percent since they launched the program. That's less than the state average.