"I look forward to coming everyday."
"Yesterday, I accidentally missed and I felt so bad about it. I just wanted to get over here."
"In this school we get to have the connection between teachers and students that we don't get in the public school. I guess it's because there are so many kids that each teacher can't have such a good relationship with every single one. But over here, we are one big, huge family. It's just great."
These are the words of students who are passionate about their education. They are the words of students who have made discoveries about themselves that will carry them far beyond the classroom. These are the words of students who care not only about their own success, but the success of their classmates and teachers as well.
And these are the words of students who only a short time ago were failing, losing credits and possibly destined to become a high school dropout.
These students now have a second chance thanks to Revive Alternative High School, the latest addition to the Regional Office of Education #3's stable of schools that aim to keep kids from Montgomery, Christian, Bond, Fayette and Effingham counties from dropping out of high school.
Statistically, not all of them will go on to graduate, but most of them, 80 percent based on statistics from the Vandalia and Effingham alternative schools, will earn high school credits of some kind.
"I have As and Bs here and at my other school, I would probably have already had some zeroes," said Trea. "They engage you more. They want to see you succeed. Over there, if you don't get your work done, you just get a zero."
With just 13 students in the high school, plus two more in the junior high, the Phoenix Safe School Program, the ability for one-on-one help with teachers and students is at a level just not possible in the traditional public school setting, where teachers are handcuffed by mandates and testing.
" Teachers here actually do care. That's something that seems to be dwindling nowadays. It seems like teachers are caring less and less, because they are having more and more students," said Jordan, a senior on track to graduate in December.
"Here we have fewer students so Elvidge, Barnes and Ives (the teachers at Revive) are able to give us individual help and take the time to explain things to us when we don't understand it."
The teachers also incorporate their own lives into the lesson plans according to Kendal Elvidge, the principal and a teacher at Revive, with Dalton Barnes and Austin Ives.
"Mr. Barnes and I are both married and we talk about that a lot, whether it's about finances or consumer math," Elvidge said. "With history, Mr. Barnes did something really cool, starting with what's currently going on and working his way back through the 2000s and the 90s. He touched on 911 and how it impacted him and where he was. We use a lot of those personal connections with the kids because, one - we're human, and two - this is real world stuff. This is what we're dealing with as fathers, as husbands, as teachers and as members of the community."
The connection between the students and teachers also blends over to the relationship between the students themselves. Every day, the whole school meets for circle time, a period to start the day that gives both teachers and students the chance to discuss the positives and negatives going on in their lives. That has helped the students bond more and has slowed some of the competitiveness between peers that education can sometimes bring.
"I feel like people actually care, and not just the teachers," Jordan said. "The students around you aren't against you."
"Everyone works together. They don't work against each other," added Haley, another senior, who is expecting a baby in February. "I feel like they could all be my children."
The school has also helped take some of the stress and pressure of a group of students who have much more on their plates than just school.
" We say that homework teaches kids responsibility, but a lot of these kids are coming in with a lot of responsibility already. When it comes down to doing homework, they don't prioritize it because it's not their number one thing," said Elvidge. "It's going to work after school, not just because they support themselves, but they support their family. They're not just sitting on the couch playing video games. They're going home and taking care of a child or cooking or cleaning. We don't really need to teach them responsibility, because they're already bringing that in."
"It's different in a good way. I can't say much bad about my previous school, but I'm getting more time to work on things," said Tommy, who is on track to graduate in December as well. "It's down to the wire, but it's not down to a wire that you can't work with."
That philosophy has helped students like Darian recover from losing credits in his first two years at his home school. Before Revive, Darian was planning on dropping out, due in part to the stress of balancing work and school.
"It was a big problem last year. I had to work after school until 11 or 12 so by that time, I was just like, who cares. That was one of the main reasons I started doing bad in school," Darian explained."Here they work together to find ways to get us to do our work. They try to keep us motivated."
Trea found himself in the same situation.
"Once you stop doing the homework over there, you fall behind, you don't know what's going on and you get left behind. So you just keep failing. That's what happened to me. I was getting zeroes and I just stopped trying. If I was still there, I'd probably be failing," said Trea, who also worked after school. "Over here, if you're behind, they'll pull you aside and get you caught up. They'll do whatever they can to make sure you actually learn."
The school also helps the student find the best path for them once their time in high school is over. While the focus is often college for high school students, at Revive, the focus is broader.
"It's setting kids up with the 'how to.' How to find the best school for them. How to get a job. How to acquire more skills," Elvidge explained. "Our kids are far more career oriented than most want to give them credit for. They know what they want to do, it's just finding the best path to do that."
For those who don't know what they want to do, Revive helps with that too. Representatives from vocational schools like Midwest Technical Institute in Springfield have visited the school, providing information on other choices after high school.
"I always thought I was going to go into the military, but just recently when the guy from MTI came here, it showed me there are a lot more opportunities out there to suit my personality and needs and specialties," said Trea. "Over there it was more, 'You need to go to college. You need to get a degree.'"
Elvidge said it's also about giving students guidance on how to better themselves in the next chapter of their lives. For example, one of his students has expressed an interest in carpentry. Elvidge and his staff have been able to show that there are things that student can do to better his situation and maintain that dream.
"Not that going and working for someone else that has a construction company is a bad thing, but by going to a trade school and getting a little more education, it's going to broaden your horizons for so many more opportunities," Elvidge explained. "That's the difference between a minimum wage job and working for the carpenter's union, with benefits and insurance. It's not things that kids necessarily think of at 17 or 18-years-old."
But it's things that some of them are thinking about now, a far cry from where these same students were not long ago.
"This school couldn't have happened at a better time," said Darian. "Honestly if this school wouldn't have been here, I would have dropped out."
"I was already dead set on giving up because I was already so far behind. But as soon as I was presented with this and talked it over with my mom, I saw that this is what I really needed," said Trea. "This gave me the motivation. I have people that actually care. It literally couldn't have happened at a better time."