Camelot Education’s Spartan Academy’s Thanksgiving Celebration – Our Students Are Our Family
Just before the national celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, Camelot Education’s Spartan Academy in Richmond, Virginia, celebrated its own Thanksgiving party for students and staff.
It’s an annual event that everyone at the school enthusiastically participates in.
“We treat our students to a traditional meal and just enjoy being an extended family during the holiday season,” said Spartan Academy Executive Director Ray Strickland. “For various reasons, many of our students may not have the opportunity to have such a gathering. Regardless of their home situation, all of our students were able to have a full holiday meal with all the traditional food and fixings. We have a young man here whose mother recently died in a car accident. Another had their family home burn down, and they’re displaced and living with relatives. We want our kids to know they can lean on us.”
Strickland said the school prides itself on being able to meet their students’ basic needs.
“If their basic needs aren’t met, you can be sure they’re not interested in math class,” Strickland said. “We see our students as our kids. Their parents receive our support as well. They phone us all the time, asking for assistance in navigating the local and state government sites, and they ask us how to fill out different forms. Our school is not just about teacher-student support. We extend our support to their families as well.”
Andrea Jewett, the school’s director of education agreed.
“Our kids are the ones who are often overlooked by our society,” she said. “They don’t expect the Thanksgiving celebration, but when it happens, they’re thrilled. They didn’t want to leave school because they were having such a good time. Our school’s mission is to support them in every way that we can, and this is just another example of how we do that.”
At Camelot Education, the schools are extensions of the communities. The entire approach to education centers on whole-child support for students with an understanding that before learning can happen, the fundamental needs of the students must be met.
“We love our students,” said Eric Martin, director of operations. “When we see a need, we meet that need. It’s incredibly important to us to support students and families in any way; otherwise they’re not going to be able to excel academically.”
Students at Camelot Education’s Spartan Academy have experienced disciplinary violations and were removed from their home campus. Students from this campus will return to their home schools with improved behavior, attendance, and academics. Strickland said there’s a vigorous partnership between the school and the local district.
“We recently sat down with students, parents, and representatives from their home school campuses,” said Strickland. “The whole idea was to make sure the students are learning coping skills, and it’s been working. After students go back to their home schools, principals can call us and let us know if a particular student is struggling that day, and we’ll speak with them to understand what’s going on. We’ve had recent situations like that where we’ve been able to assist a student who recently returned to their home school. Our overall goal is the success of the students.”
“Before the district partnered with us, there were numerous challenges within the student body. Now, those situations are minimal,” Strickland said. “Before, students from different neighborhoods routinely fought each other. Now they’ve engaged academically. They’re involved in student government. They’re planning for their futures. Recently Richmond’s Mayor, Levar Stoney, visited the school, and what he saw regarding the changes blew him away. He talked with the students, and they told him they liked it better here than at their home campuses. He asked them why. They told him ‘The staff here loves us.’”
That’s a sentiment common among the students, who thoroughly enjoyed the Thanksgiving celebration.
“I actually chose to go back to Spartan Academy from my regular school because I like the teachers better,” said Tysean Jackson, 17. “They help you with your work in school and even help you get after school jobs. I have better manners now. I treat people the way I want to be treated. My mother died last month. I’m still trying to deal with losing her, but Mr. Strickland reaches out to me daily to make sure I’m doing ok. He came to my mother’s funeral along with our principal, Mr. Trotter, and even supplied my family with a care package for Thanksgiving. The support I get here is the reason I don’t give up.”
Quinaiyah Book, 16, said she expects to have a positive impact on others by getting her peers to see the big picture.
“That’s the way to understand the real world, the world outside of their neighborhoods,” she said. “You have to talk your problems out instead of blowing up. People might look at our school like it’s a place for bad kids. It’s not. It’s a great environment. It’s helped me grow. It’s helped me realize I can change. I’m not the same person I used to be. Mr. Strickland is like a father to me, and treats us all like his own kids.”
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