The Georgia Preparatory Academy in Milledgeville, Georgia, educates the 26 incarcerated youths at the Milledgeville Youth Detention Center. The GPA provides education that ensures a smooth academic transition back into their previous schools.
The teaching staff faces challenges many public school teachers do not have to face: specifically overly-aggressive and violent behavior.
“The school system these kids were previously in told them they weren’t enough and that they’d never amount to anything. They didn’t have any hope. I feel like we have the opportunity as teachers here to give them hope,” Lori Adolphus, a teacher at GPA for over 20 years, states.Why it’s Newsworthy: The Georgia Preparatory Academy seeks to prepare its students not only for their return to their previous school but also their community. Through a strong education, these students will have the tools to become successful contributing members of society rather than entering back into crime.
Not Your Typical Teaching Job
“You’re working with kids who the school systems, and society, have thrown away,” Daniel Sovereign, Lead Teacher at GPA, says,
This is the type of job where you either know you want to do it or you just don’t.”
Sovereign has seen many teachers come to GPA expecting it to be a great entry-level teaching job only to quit days after starting.
Because this specific classroom setting involves a lot of violence and negative behavior, teachers have to make a daily choice to make the students’ education and well-being a priority.
Not just any teacher can hold a position at GPA. Though their teachers must be certified and pass a background check like any other school, Sovereign believes there’s a level of tenacity and grit that a teacher must embody to face the typically violent and aggressive class setting.
“If I need to hire two good employees, I have to interview at least forty,” he adds.
A Dedicated Leader
Lori Adolphus is a prime example of what it looks like to teach with resilience and a deep care for students.
Early in her teaching career at GPA, Adolphus attempted to break up a fight in her classroom that ultimately led to her getting hit in the mouth. Although she was rushed to the hospital shortly after, she showed up for class the next day.
“I told myself that I’d be damned if they think I’m not coming back tomorrow. If they think I’m scared, they’re going to think they can do this in my class and it’s okay with me. I don’t want them to think that.”
Adolphus firmly believes that the key to successfully teaching this group of students is grace.
We always celebrate the good stuff, every day is a new day. What happened yesterday is done with, and I can’t hold a grudge,” she says.
Adolphus and Sovereign both believe that the traditional school setting has forgotten how to teach anything other than subject content. The hope of the GPA is to not only educate on school subjects but also on how to deal with adversity.
The Real Difference
The obvious difference between a GPA class setting and a public school setting is the level of violent behavior. However, there’s a greater difference that keeps the teachers coming back every morning.
“I see kids being their authentic selves. They tell you why they’re mad. They don’t put on for anyone. Whatever is going on, it’s real,” Adolphus says.
The relationship that is built between these students and their teachers is unparalleled. The teachers see their students’ mess yet still love them and earn their trust.
Adolphus is one of the most beloved teachers at the academy, earning the rapper inspired nickname “Young Dolph” from her students.
A Lesson From the Students
For Lori Adolphus, the Georgia Preparatory Academy not only changed the lives of her students but also her own life.
“I know that I don’t have to know everything,” Adolphus says. Through accepting that there are things she doesn’t have the answers to, Adolphus is able to show the students that they can learn together.
Through her time at GPA, Adolphus has realized that she’s become more confident in herself.
Because these students are there authentic selves, I’m encouraged to do the same,” Adolphus says.
Christy Quinton is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.