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

Our God – A Poem by an Anderson Sophomore

OUR GOD

“Thou how I dwell in sorrow yet yee who fights with a smile lies to yaa self for yee is hiding the pain scared of fear so i cry out upon our heavenly father for he will guide the young the old the weak n the brave for I shall never question him for he is mighty in powerful so I say unto you Lord yee have all faith within you thou not i turneth away he who died for me so unto thy Lord I confess my sins to you for you will forgive me for I am you in another life for I am your child you as i am lives within me yee who denies him or have lil faith will be damned to hell for I lift your glorious name in speak upon you ma King in the time of need so may I have eternal life for yee if i not betray you for i bow at your feet for you are loyal too those who are not for you i am you are a leader beyond many” [sic]

By Brooklyn P. (Sophomore, Anderson)

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Kokomo Crossing Helps Community in Distress

Kokomo Crossing staff and students were given a day off due to tornadoes directly affecting the area. This did not stop our kids from volunteering at 9 A.M. We had kids calling the night before, not to check on school closing, but to check on where we were meeting to help the community. We are blessed in Kokomo to have a family of students that see the needs in the larger world around them.  We headed down to ground zero by 9:30 to help with the disaster around Urban Outreach, a local organization that sends food to our campus weekly. It was an amazing opportunity to give back to our community which has given so much to us. Our kids worked all day clearing the debris and serving lunch to those with out electricity. The Kokomo Crossing took a crew of twenty students, volunteers and staff to serve.

Kokomo Kitchen Gets a Facelift

The Kokomo Crossing is doing some exciting things this year. We believe our kitchen is a fundamental part of our Crossing campus.  Last year when we began our garden, we had no place to process our products; so we hauled a stove out of a staff member’s garage and set it up in a small break room in the school. We began with ten five-gallon buckets of tomatoes that we pulled off the vines we planted. It was exciting to hear students say, “I didn’t know one tiny seed could produce so many tomatoes on one plant!”. So, in true Crossing fashion, we started canning on the run. We began with one hot plate and a canning pot.

We quickly saw a need in our students’ lives: many of them were struggling to find good meals regularly. We teamed with Urban Outreach in Kokomo and they began supplying us with food as we found volunteers to serve. This partnership has turned into a wonderful community builder. Everyday, Monday through Friday, we sit as a family and share bread together. It is a great time for us to connect with our kids. We were blessed that our Kokomo Board saw this great need and began to put a plan together to renovate such a valued space. With the help of many financial and volunteer supporters including Huston Electric, Merrell Brothers, BMO- Harris, Wyman Group, Advantage Housing and Hochstetler’s Flooring, we have created a wonderful space. Some of these companies are entering a contest called CWAM which awards monetary prizes for collaboration and volunteer work on projects for non-profits. We are hoping to win one of these prizes which will aid us in continuing the garden project:  supplying grow lights and a greenhouse on the Kokomo Campus.

It is amazing the work that our kids did on this project. Our JTP students, while teaming with Advantage Housing, helped to cut and lay the tile in the kitchen that was donated by Hochstetler Flooring. They also disassembled and painted cabinets, worked on the plumbing for the dishwasher, and helped install the new sink and counter tops. Our students went to Huston Electric and helped in the vinyl process for our exterior signs. Huston also updated the kitchen with wall-sized Crossing graphics as well as wrapping our van in Crossing graphics.

Our students worked side by side with our board members and others that are deeply touched by our students and their struggles. This started as a kitchen project but ended as much more. Our students now have a new dehydrator, refrigerators, range, dishwasher and shelving. They have a space that is welcoming and encourages them to keep pursuing the good that the Kokomo Crossing garden project is accomplishing.  We are blessed to have such a great family of believers in Kokomo.

A 2013 Graduate

Amanda, another of our 2013 South Bend graduates, shares her journey that took her from public school, to the Crossing, to the graduation stage. Thanks, Amanda, for your hard work and bright spirits. We are excited to see where God leads you next.

Feed the Children

The Crossing took students from the Elkhart and Nappanee campuses to help Feed the Children. Feed the Children sends boxes filled with various supplies all over the country to those in need. Some boxes are filled with food while others are sometimes filled with hygiene products. Over the span of two days, roughly 50 students and staff packed over
1,000 boxes for families in need.