New alternative high school looks to expand in downtown Flint

There’s a new public school in downtown Flint—and it is looking to grow.

Now located in the Dryden Building, GearUp Academy is an alternative high school built by innovators, volunteers, and community members to provide an educational option for students who struggle in more traditional settings. It launched less than a year ago.

GearUp Academy focuses on allowing giving students another option to achieve their high school diploma in an environment that focuses on flexibility, individuality, and personal attention.

Students earn their high school diploma and as part of their studies start a business or lead a social impact project. They also have the opportunity to do internships at local businesses and government agencies, said Winston Stoody, executive director of GearUp 2 Lead and teacher at GearUp Academy.

“It engages the kids that are disconnected… (By finishing school) they will feel like success,” he said.

The academy, which initially had a total of six students enrolled, has produced one graduate and three more are on track to graduate in October. Now, the academy has 14 students enrolled and is looking to expand by relocating to the Ferris Wheel building.

There, they will be surrounded by innovation, with local start-ups nearby and more space to learn and host more students and more teachers. Stoody is currently the only certified teacher on staff.

“There is just so much potential and opportunity,” said Kelly Rodgers, who serves on GearUp 2 Lead’s board. “We’re just really a startup, completely grassroots just trying to make a difference.”

Students meet in the classroom five times a week, doing most of their coursework online. On the fifth day, eleventh and twelfth graders go to their internships, while the younger students work on project citizen, which is a business start-up, or they listen to a guest speaker/teacher.

However, in the classroom, students are given the opportunity to ask questions, have conversations about their daily life, the world around them, and occasionally relax while doing yoga or heading downtown for lunch.

Gear in the academy name actually is an acronym for the four core principles taught there: growth mindset, empathy, action, and responsibility.

Initially, Stoody was not going to build such an extensive program in the area, but upon seeing the need for more alternative schooling, he decided more needed to be done. GearUp Academy also is built around providing students with more than an education: They receive what the students themselves identified as their No. 1 need to be successful: “A relationship with a supportive, caring adult.”

To make the move to the Ferris Wheel Building, GearUp Academy has launched a $50,000 fundraising campaign through Patronicity. It will pay for both renovations and school supplies, Stoody said.

An informational event is planned for 5 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 13, 2017, at the Dryden Building. It will include an opportunity to learn more about GearUp Academy and hear from students enrolled in the school.

For more information on GearUp Academy, check its website.
GearUp Academy now is located in the Dryden Building but is looking to relocate to the Ferris Wheel Building. It launched a Patronicity campaign to help fund the move.

Read more articles by Makenzie Schroeder.

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