New east side charter school gives kids a second chance

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Aug. 31, 2015)-- His former public school didn't want Keyshawn Brooks anymore after he tried to pick a fight with a teacher.

"He touched me and I don't like to be touched," said Brooks. "I recently got expelled from class by way of my behavior problems and I've just come here to focus on getting my high school diploma and going to college."

The kid who got kicked out of school because he wanted to fight because he doesn't like to be touched just hugged the director of his new charter school.

Emmitt Carney, a former federal agent and a successful baseball coach and an unsuccessful candidate for sheriff, is the director of the Marion Academy in what used to be called IPS 68 at 21st Street and Riley Avenue on the city's east side.

As befitting its head coach, there is a baseball motif throughout the school, down to the inspirational book being read in class about civil rights and base stealing pioneer Jackie Robinson.

"You're killing me," said Carney when he was asked to talk about a success story at his school and his eyes began to water. "They got great stories we just got to find out what it is."

Carney found Brooks in his parking lot one day this summer accompanied by an exasperated grandmother searching for a school to handle her grandson.

"For them it's their only option," said Carney. "They're expelled and once you're expelled they don't want you back so we're their last chance. We are hopefully that life raft that they have."

Before entering Marion Academy, many of the students will likely attend Hillside Academy inside the Marion County Juvenile Center where being locked up doesn't mean a day off from school.

"We've seen over the years the schools take an approach of trying to cram our square peg kids in to round holes and it just didn't work," said Judge Marilyn Moores of the Juvenile Division. "Here we are ordering these kids to go to school. If they are involved with us through an open deliquency case, they are ordered to go to school, so if they are having problems in that school, we will be right over there to address it."

Lisa Sanchez is a first-year instructor at Marion Academy and sees herself in the children she teaches.

"I feel like I can relate to them a lot and they can come to me for anything that they need advice. I've been through what they're going through as a kid. I was very very bad."

One of her students was reading about Jackie Robinson, the other about Maya Angelou.

"They have somewhere to be and they can see that we are here to help them regardless of any attitudes that they give or bring forward to us," said Sanchez who was married Friday and is spending what should be her honeymoon teaching.

Two dozen students are enrolled at Marion Academy, but with 102 children at the Juvenile Center and taking classes, chances are the charter school population will grow in the months to come.

Judge Moores expects even more youngsters to come her way after the state's student head count is completed this fall and financial aid is determined and the more troublesome youngsters are kicked out of Marion County's public schools.

"If you don't have school, you don't have anything," said Brooks who was studying Introduction to Chemistry and Physics, "but if you have your education, you can go far into the world and explore more things and do better than what you expected."

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