Crossing grows in popularity, size

By Lauren Slagter Kokomo Tribune

After just a couple of weeks at the Crossing, Keenan McClerkin is confident that’s where he will attend until he graduates.

McClerkin, 16, found out about the alternative, faith-based school at his church, where one of the school’s staff members also attends. He is one of an increasing number of students who are finding the Crossing best meets their needs.

“I was hearing good things about the staff and that people get a lot of work done there,” McClerkin said. “They’re willing to talk to me, not just about school but personal stuff. I love this school.”

The Crossing Education Center in Kokomo opened for the 2010-11 school year and is located at 1234 N. Courtland Ave., in the former Columbian Elementary School. The school employs four teachers after adding a position for this school year to accommodate growing enrollment.

Currently, 64 students attend the Crossing in Kokomo, with most of the population between the ages of 15 and 19, although some are older. The student population is transient, so the Crossing tracks enrollment by counting the number of students it serves each semester, though those students may not attend for the whole year or even an entire semester.

The school served 64 students in the first semester of the 2013-14 school year and 83 in the second semester. That’s a significant increase from the 2012-13 school year, when the Crossing’s Kokomo campus served 43 students the first semester and 41 in the second semester. The Crossing has 16 campuses across the state.

“We get kids three ways,” said James Jakus, principal of the Crossing in Kokomo. “The first is public schools sending us students. The second way is we pick kids up off the street. The third way is having kids off the street tell their friends.”

Each of those avenues for recruiting students has contributed to the growing enrollment. Jakus said more students are coming to the Crossing because the alternative school is working closely with area public schools. It’s becoming more known in the community as a whole and a variety of partners – plus the board of directors – are continuing to support unique programming at the school.

“Before we were basically an unknown entity who perhaps was seen as a bad sign in the community,” Jakus said. “I believe now we’re a relevant option.

“Our No. 1 reason is we’ve improved relationships with our sending schools. We are a tool to them,” Jakus continued. “A lot of parents want their kids to come here because the campus is run by people who have Biblical values. Even if the parents don’t have Biblical values, they like that the teachers do.”

Students typically come to the Crossing if they were struggling at another school, whether with academics, behavioral issues or getting bullied. Whatever reason students choose the Crossing, the school tries to accommodate their unique needs as they work toward earning a diploma or passing an equivalency test and then going to college or entering the workforce.

The Crossing’s school day is shorter than a traditional school – just three hours a day – which helps students focus, Jakus said. Staff members are encouraged to develop personal relationships with students and take on a mentoring role. The school has daily “family time” when students can talk about whatever is going on in their lives, and career skills programs allow students to get involved with remodeling abandoned houses or growing and selling their own produce from two community gardens. Other after-school programs offer additional ways for students to stay engaged.

“We don’t beat kids up for what they’ve done wrong. We try to come alongside them,” Jakus said. “We look at discipline issues as an opportunity to grow. We have rules and regulations and we do discipline, but the focus is on reconciliation.”

The Crossing’s board of directors offers guidance for the school as well as financial support, Jakus said. The board helps raise money to cover student tuition, which is $100 a month if there’s no assistance available. Numerous faith-based groups support the school, as well as United Way of Howard County, the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, Kokomo Urban Outreach, Advantage Housing, Ivy Tech Community College and CAM.

CAM and Advantage Housing have worked with the Crossing to open a women’s youth shelter for students and recent graduates of the Crossing. The Serena Youth Center still is looking for more donations to furnish rooms and a couple to act as house parents before the six young women can move in. A men’s youth shelter also is in the works.

For more information on the Crossing, call 765-319-5188 or visit www.crossingeducation.com.
Education reporter Lauren Slagter can be reached at 765-454-8587, by email at lauren.slagter@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @LaurenSlagter.

Crossing receives grant from Old National Bank!

Old National Gives to the CrossingThe Crossing Educational Center’s Entrepreneurial Training Center received a $5,000 grant from Old National Bank to service Elkhart County’s most struggling youth.

Northern Indiana faces a crisis in providing every student with quality academic preparation and workforce development. With drop-out rates for Elkhart County hitting 10.3%, it is clear that there exists large numbers of students who will not only fail to earn their high school diploma, but will also reduce the pool of qualified workers for local employers. This combination can be deadly to community health. The Crossing’s Entrepreneurial Training Center will provide struggling Elkhart County students with their core academic education, vocational training and workforce etiquette courses, hands-on job experience, community service, leadership training, and assistance in securing employment upon graduation. These services will all be wrapped around the hands-on operation of a fully functional micro business where students learn the hard and soft skills associated with operating a business (marketing, accounting, contracts, inventory, etc.). Students who were once written off as destined for public assistance, minimum wage jobs, and worse, will instead fill the community with highly prepared, motivated, and engaged working adults who will contribute to community health.

The Entrepreneurial Center Job Training Project takes the Job Training Program to the next level in that students begin to transition their mindset from simple “employee” to potential business leader. By creating a fully operational manufacturing and lumber facility, students learn the back-office skills of accounting, marketing, clerical responsibilities, budgeting, and management. With oversight from Job Coaches, students are responsible for creating a business plan, recruiting and marketing for potential clients, evaluating supply/demand through inventory and purchasing, invoicing and processing payments, and virtually every aspect of operating a business. Ultimately, the Entrepreneurial Center Job Training micro businesses will become self-sustaining programs that will also underwrite a cost of the general Job Training Program overall. Students will receive multiple state recognized credits towards graduation for participating in this program, as well as multiple work certifications for skill set mastery. This program ultimately allows students to learn the tangible skills of operating a business, as well as the inherent value of contributing back to the community in which they live.

The Crossing Educational Center is an accredited, faith-based, alternative high school in the state of Indiana, focusing on students who have not been successful in a traditional school environment. The Crossing Educational Center has 18 campuses throughout the state of Indiana servicing over 1,000 students and currently contracts with over 45 Indiana public school corporations. The mission of The Crossing is to empower struggling students to become contributing members of their communities through academics, job-training and faith-based mentoring.

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Crossing receives United Way Grant!

Left to right: Darren Bickel-Vice President of Community Impact | United Way of Elkhart County; Jena Bontrager-Director of Marketing | CEC; Megan Bailey-Director of Operations | CEC; Rob Staley-CEO | CEC

The Crossing Educational Center’s Entrepreneurial Training Center received a $30,000 grant from the United Way of Elkhart County to service Elkhart County’s most struggling youth.

The Entrepreneurial Training Center provides students with the hands-on operation and development of a micro-business. This vocational program develops the internal traits and dispositions of struggling youth to prepare them to be contributing members of the Elkhart County workforce after graduation. While working toward their high school diploma, students participating at the Entrepreneurial Center will receive vocational training in a highly structured Job Training Program (JTP). The Entrepreneurial Training Center will take the students to the next level by helping them transition their mindset from simple “employee” to potential business leader. By creating a fully operational lumber facility, which includes the creation of pallets, selling hardwoods, splitting and bundling firewood, and the selling of that firewood, students learn the back-office skills of accounting, marketing, clerical responsibilities, budgeting, and management.

With oversight from instructors, students are responsible for creating a business plan, recruiting and marketing for potential clients, evaluating supply/demand through inventory and purchasing, invoicing and processing payments, and virtually every aspect of operating the lumber facility. The Entrepreneurial Project will ultimately incorporate all of the JTP programs, and this currently includes the Xtreme Tree Service, WoodWorks, Office Team, Auto Tech, and Crossing Farm.

The Crossing Educational Center is an accredited, faith-based, alternative high school in the state of Indiana, focusing on students who have not been successful in a traditional school environment. The Crossing Educational Center has 18 campuses throughout the state of Indiana servicing over 1,000 students and currently contracts with over 45 Indiana public school corporations. The mission of The Crossing is to empower struggling students to become contributing members of their communities through academics, job-training and faith-based mentoring.

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New Schools in New Cities

campus-map

We are excited to welcome several new communities to the Crossing family for the 2014-2015 school year! This August, we will be opening four new Crossing campuses. These new campuses will be located in Marshall County (Plymouth), Starke County (Knox), Johnson County (South Indy), and Marion County (Indy Near East).

At the Crossing, we help students graduate, but more than that we also focus on job training, life issues, and faith. Crossing students spend part of the day in the classroom and the rest of the day in the Job Training Program where they participate in internships, work teams, and run micro-businesses. Sprinkled throughout the school day is prayer, discussion about God, the Bible and spiritual guidance from adults and staff regarding life issues. With each new campus, we are able to reach even more teenagers who are struggling in life and need someone to give them another chance.

It is important to recognize that our partnerships with local public schools are imperative. We work together to determine which students are struggling as well as those who have dropped out. Many of these students need the additional support that is given at the Crossing. We want to thank the following school districts who are helping to make the opening of these new schools possible through their partnership with the Crossing:

Dekalb County Eastern Community School District
Greenwood Community School Corporation
Clark-Pleasant Community School Corporation
Union-North United School Corporation
Argos Community Schools
Plymouth Community School Corporation
Triton School Corporation
Rochester Community School Corporation
Culver Community School Corporation
Knox Community School Corporation
John Glenn School Corporation
North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation
Eastern Pulaski School Corporation
Oregon-Davis School Corporation

Students who are interested in learning more about the Crossing campus coming to their area should complete the online intent to enroll form. After submitting the form, potential students will be contacted with upcoming enrollment and informational meetings to attend where they will learn more. In addition, upcoming meetings will be posted on the Crossing website.

If you have questions, please contact our Corporate Office at (574) 226-0671.

Crossing Featured on WSBT

The Crossing and it’s Entrepreneurial Training Center were featured on WSBT this week! Watch the video here!

Faith-based alternative school sees big enrollment surge

Back in 2003, The Crossing Educational Center started in Elkhart County to provide a faith-based, alternative school for students who didn’t work well in a traditional school.

What started with 6 students and 2 teachers is now 900 students around northern Indiana.

And now – The Crossing is adding 4 more locations.

The Crossing not only provides lessons in the classroom for its students, but it also has a job training program that started two years ago.

That’s where they pick up job skills while earning high school credit.

It even provides more of an attraction for those who want to attend The Crossing.

In this case, they’re part of a wood working operation.

“We are embedding our curriculum into the job training program besides having a separate classroom situation,” said Director Rob Staley. “The job training program, the hands-on application of academics, is really the glue that holds the thing together.”

“I’m able to build relationships a lot better with teachers,” said student Cody Galloway. “I was bullied a lot, so I have come with C’s and D’s to basically A’s.”

“(The Crossing) is very hands on,” added fellow student Tiffany Burchard. “You’re making the products.”

The job training program is drawing a record number of students into the classroom.

With the success and acceptance of the program over the last couple of years, especially in northern Indiana, The Crossing is continuing its efforts to expand its educational programs even further.

It’s looking at starting schools in Plymouth and Knox as well as two schools in Indianapolis, which would bring the total student population to 1,000 statewide.

Next year, more than 50 public school systems in Indiana will contract to send struggling students to The Crossing facilities.

“The school corporations are becoming more and more excited about a unique project that we have to offer,” added Staley.

View the original article here:  Faith-based alternative school sees big enrollment surge

School helps minds grow by cutting down trees

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette featured the Crossing Tree Team from the Fort Wayne campus in an article on March 6, 2014.

School helps minds grow by cutting down trees
by Frank Gray, Journal Gazette

At the Crossing Educational Center, a faith-based alternative school on South Calhoun Street next to South Side High School, the philosophy is to help students become contributing members of society, school officials say.

But exactly how is a handful of high school students supposed to contribute?

Well, the emerald ash borer seems to have provided an answer to that question.

Today and Friday, the school’s students, working with NeighborLink, will be taking down dead trees on a smattering of city residents’ properties.

Oddly enough, it’s a perfect fit for the little school, one of 15 related alternative schools scattered around northern Indiana.

The story of the Crossing is an interesting one. The school’s founder, Rob Staley, used to be a Lutheran high school principal, and one of the distasteful sides of that job was periodically having to suspend students.

Then one day, Staley toured the jail and found it was full of students he had suspended.

Just look at the numbers, said Kurt Jaderholm, a spokesman for the school. Each year, 24,000 kids in Indiana fail to graduate from high school. Those who don’t graduate are eight times as likely to end up in jail or prison as those who do graduate, he said, and that’s an expensive proposition. It costs $70,000 to keep a man in prison for a year, but only $6,000 to educate a student, he said.

That’s when Staley got the idea for an alternative school that emphasized academics, job training and mentoring.

But before any of this happened, before Staley ever grew up, his father had run a tree-trimming business.

So the school, which started in Elkhart, established its own microbusiness, trimming trees and turning the leftovers into sellable products ranging from lumber to pallets.

The school has developed what it calls an Xtreme Team made up of staff and students who tackle the trees. They are experienced in handling chain saws, chippers and other equipment, and they will be on hand today and Friday to handle the tree removals. The students at the Fort Wayne branch will be doing what Jaderholm described as grunt work, hauling logs and stuff like that.

It’s a perfect answer to a not-so-hypothetical question posed by Jaderholm: What do you do when an aging grandmother on a fixed income has a dead tree in her yard threatening to fall on her house, and she can’t get insurance because of the hazard, and she can’t afford to hire someone to remove it?

The project also fits in well with the school’s other activities, which involve working with the city and helping with periodic river cleanups.

“It’s good to see good things happening,” Jaderholm said. “We are making things happen.”

View the original article here: Journal Gazette

Student Shares from SB Spiritual Retreat

CharizmaI have had a good experience at The Crossing. I love everything about it. The Crossing changed a lot about me. The Crossing helps you get your credits and graduate. I’m really lucky to have the credits that I have now. I have also been able to get more in touch with God. There have been a lot of activities that helped me with this.

The biggest one was the Spiritual Retreat for the South Bend Campuses. The retreat was a big event. I really enjoyed it. At the retreat there were times where I actually felt that God was there. Being able to kneel down at the cross and having people that don’t know me pray for me really helped me. I would go to all of the retreats because you get in touch with God and can feel his presence. It was a time to think and talk to God. The Crossing is a really good school. My experience is a new one but this is the school I want to graduate from!

– Charizma Y., South Bend Central Campus

Spiritual Retreat Experience

The spiritual retreat at The Bridge Church in Decatur was truly the most enlightening experience that I have had in my life. Going into the retreat I didn’t have high hopes I never really believed that God was real. It was just really hard for me to believe something I couldn’t see. During the retreat I had a very personal encounter with the guest speaker that was there. We split up into groups and I was in the group he was in charge of which was a prayer circle. He went around in a circle and prayed for each of us individually, when he got to me he prayed for a lot of very private stuff that I never told him about. This experience was weird for me, but I felt he honestly knew what happened in my life.

Going into the next group I was thinking that this was an indication that God was real. In this second group we talked about getting closer to God and how he can help us in our lives. I got a lot of knowledge from this group about God and how to get over some of the doubts that I was having about him. After this group I knew I wanted to acknowledge he was there, but I wasn’t ready to fully believe in him yet. The next group really helped me fully embrace God. With the help of one of our campus teachers, Mr. Reyes, I prayed to accept God into my life. After we prayed I half expected to see a beam of light come out of the sky and hear angels sing, but, sadly, that didn’t happen; I did get a feeling in me that I made the right choice. In the course of one day I changed my mind completely, and I feel like I always have someone to talk to.

– Drew C., Berne Sophomore

Kokomo Student Raps about Pain and Change

Yeah, i’ve been in and out of trouble since i was 13. Livin this life is like livin a sick dream, I was a sick teen, in and out of the streets. i was 15 the day that my sister died, i was lost in time, i didn’t know Christ, i started losin my life. I was losin my mind, i’m supprized im even alive.

And even with that i never realized. So this is my situation, i lost all hope that i had inside, i was livin a lie. When i was young my father left me to die. He didn’t want to even be in my life, cause he was also livin that life. Then i got taken away, put in a cage, just rotten and watchin my days just get faded away.

But that day i realized that God is here to take away my pain and open my eyes to live another day. So i got saved and turned around my life, now i’m livin it right. See, Christ is here for every single one of us, he bled for us, died for us and now he wants to bless for us. I thought what i did was unforgivable, unforgetable

But those thoughts were just irrational. So now im changin up my ways, stayin clean and stayin away. Just remember to Satan your life is just a game, but to Jesus it ain’t, you just gotta have faith. I turned around my life, i know im not saint. But i can ask for forgivness and get saved. Christ is in this world and we all need em.

Goin without em is like goin without freedom, so put up your hands and fall to your knees, you gotta know God to set your soul free.
I used to be the same way. I like my life an I wanted it my way, but is it worth gettin casted away, put in the flames, just burnin away?

People try to tell God to prove himself, well you have the bible and the proof yourself. You just have to turn from you old ways, give em your heart, and love him in all ways.
Don’t let Satan conqure you, he’ll just burn your soul away. See, i turned from my selfish ways, and one day i’m gonna be walkin down the Golden way, leavin my past astray.

Lookin up at God with a smile on my face. So come on friends join me to the path of bein saved.

– Austin W., Kokomo

Love and Valentine’s Day – A Crossing Student Shares

“This week at the Crossing we have been talking about what real love is, because, of course, it is Valentine’s Day week. Today, one student brought in a bag full of lovely things with balloons—how adorable. With me currently not dating someone you can imagine how I am feeling about love. I would love to be with someone on this day to share the love: to not have to be alone on a day where many people are not. I’ve realized, though, that you don’t have to have a spouse to feel loved. Tonight, I am going out with my best friend to the movies. I love her and to be able to spend it with at least her, even though it’s not a spouse, its still greater than being alone.

“What does God say about love? First Corinthians 13:4-7 states, ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’ I think that this is the true definition of love.

“Love is all about being yourself, trusting another person, being there through thick and thin, and not putting your feelings before there’s. Love is not all about couples; it’s also about loving yourself, people, and God. I think some people have forgotten the definition of love.”

Olivia D. – Ligonier Student

Growth and Graduate at South Bend Central

South Bend Central is EXPLODING with learning, fun, and enrollment! We are just a couple students away from being full as far as capacity, and what an amazing group of awesome students we have here! We are busy every day earning credits, learning, growing and having fun together…and we are almost as busy after school! We have amazing opportunities after hours including: staff/student basketball every Monday night, the Truth Project, Faith and Fellowship on Fridays where we partner with City Chapel, a drumming club is beginning, City Chapel is working with us to organize a choir/band…and more opportunities are happening here all the time. It is certainly a place of growth, fun and new experiences during school and after!

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We have also celebrated an awesome accomplishment this third quarter with Josh graduating! We are so proud of him and look forward to his future accomplishments and wathcing him reach his goals. The entire campus shared the excitedment with him one morning with pictures, cupcakes, congratulations and hugs. We are very proud!

Planting seeds of service at the Crossing

The Kokomo Tribune featured our Kokomo campus in an article on February 14, 2014:

Planting seeds of service at the Crossing

By Lauren Fitch Kokomo Tribune

Something as seemingly insignificant as a tomato seed has proven life-changing for students at the Crossing Educational Center.

The Kokomo campus of the statewide faith-based alternative school runs a job training gardening program, where students and staff plant seeds, harvest produce, can the produce and make salsa or pepper jelly and then donate or sell the products at the local farmers market.

“I didn’t know we could grow peppers in Indiana,” laughed Joey Shook, who has been a student at The Crossing for four years. “It’s amazing. [Horticulture] is actually what I want to go to college for now. It changed everything.”

Shook’s time working in the garden at the south branch of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library motivated him to stay in school and gave him the confidence to pursue higher education.

“It’s a miracle what can happen when you put your mind to it. It’s awesome for a school to have this,” he said. “I would have quit a long time ago if it wasn’t for this school.”

The Crossing’s gardens will continue expand, potentially reaching even more students like Shook, thanks to a $16,300 grant recently awarded by Companies With A Mission.

CWAM encourages workplace volunteers to donate services and expertise to a local charity. Volunteers submit a two-minute video of their work to CWAM’s Super Service Challenge, and the national nonprofit awards $1 million in grants based on the videos.

A group of 25 students and staff from The Crossing and representatives from local business supporters – which include Huston Electric, Merrell Bros. Inc., BMO Harris Bank, Wyman Group, Advantage Housing and Hostetler’s Cabinet Shop – traveled to Indianapolis for the Super Service Challenge awards Jan. 9.

“When they announced we won that money, I got goosebumps,” said Darian Fouch, a student in her second school year at The Crossing, who attended the grant ceremony. “We all jumped up and were so happy. I know what this money means to the school. It’s really exciting that we were blessed to have that.”

Fouch has not gotten involved in the gardening yet, but she is looking forward to it this spring. She compared the transformation she’s seen in herself and her peers to the seeds they plant.

“I’m like one of those seeds that was planted, and I’ve grown so much,” she said. “The school has changed my life and given me a chance to be something, which I didn’t think I would. … I know what it’s done in my life, so I like to watch what it does for the other kids too.”

Shannon Querry, career and community development coordinator for The Crossing, has been touched by the community’s willingness to invest in the school and is excited to see how the garden project progresses.

“Our board is so fabulous. They see our kids and want to do so much for us,” Querry said. “To be able to sit while they were unveiling who was winning, and we kept winning. Our board president was jumping up and down, as excited as the kids were.”

Board president Paul Wyman was excited to see The Crossing secure so much grant money.

“It was a very exciting and charged atmosphere,” he said. “We were very fortunate here in our community to be one of the top grant recipients. I’ve got a real passion for The Crossing school. These kids who are at a significant disadvantage in life for a variety of reasons are able not only to get a quality education but also to learn job skills.”

To qualify for the CWAM grants, volunteers from local businesses filmed their sessions helping The Crossing students and staff renovate their kitchen. The space needed an upgrade to accommodate their growing canning and food service ventures.

The Wyman Group’s video was one of the people’s choice winners, which came with a $5,000 grant, and Huston Electric’s video brought in $10,000 for The Crossing.

“[The weekend in Indianapolis for the CWAM awards] was the neatest part of the whole project for me,” said Matt Boor, vice president of sales and marketing for Huston Electric and member of The Crossing board. “To me, going to a bowling alley and playing video games wasn’t a big deal. But some of these kids had never been out of Howard County. They’re coming up to you and saying this is the best night of my life.”

“They were part of the team that helped us do this,” Boor added. “They were part of a winning team that night.”

The grant money will be used to purchase grow lights, racks, a bloom tent and other supplies to create an indoor gardening space in the school. The long-term goal is to build a greenhouse.

Gardening has been a learning experience for students and staff alike, Querry said, and she wants to see the initiative continue to grow.

“This money is so we can begin to take our garden through the winter when you can’t get things in the ground,” she said. “This population really doesn’t know what to do with fresh veggies or how to cook them. So we want to grow some different things to create that awareness. They begin to understand what it looks like to have responsibility, to grow something and do something with it and to start a business.”

Having a year-round garden will help students like Jacob Parr stay motivated at school.

“If it wasn’t for the people helping, we wouldn’t have a garden,” he said. “I probably wouldn’t want to be in school. I wouldn’t be able to get out and work with my hands.”

Read the original article: Kokomo Tribune