Cristian Martinez, 17, completes a lesson during class at Prevention PLUS Inc.’s Forest Park Street School in Forest Park. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)
FOREST PARK — College pennants crown the walls of Forest Park Street School, a small private school tucked into the corner lot at 5881 Phillips Drive.
A bulletin board near the entrance suffocates under the weight of brochures from area certificate and degree programs.
A display case across the hall features six profiles of 2013 graduates — brief notations on the students’ immediate plans and long-term goals. They are in college or career training programs with their sights already set on finding specific careers within in the next decade.
That preparation and goal-minded ambition are the best use of their secondary education, said Tammy Miller, executive director at the nonprofit Prevention Positive Leaders Uniting Students Inc., also known as Prevention PLUS Inc.
The school was established in the late 1980s from Prevention PLUS Inc.
Lois Collins founded the organization in 1986 as a teen drug and alcohol prevention program, which later morphed into a teen center.
Miller said it has since transformed into a full-fledged SACS-accredited secondary school with a GED program.
“There is room at the table for diversity in education in Clayton County,” she said. “We have become another school choice option. Our primary goal is to uncover nontraditional careers and expose young people to them.”
Miller said the school has maintained a small enrollment of about 25 over the years, serving students who come to them to have a different educational experience.
“They find us and inquire about our program,” Miller said. “Young people come to us for a variety of reasons. At their old schools, the classes are too big, they’re moving to fast or too slow or they’re being bullied.”
Some cases result from a bottleneck of students who are off track at traditional schools and are in danger of falling through the cracks.
However, Forest Park Street School attempts to catch them before that happens, said Miller, who added that roughly 70 percent of students who enroll in the program graduate.
“We wrap ourselves around it so that all our staff can connect to them,” she said. “We treat them like they’re ours.”
Beatriz Resendiz, 17, came to the school from Forest Park Middle. She said she has benefited the last three years from the smaller school environment.
“I like that there are smaller class sizes so that the teachers get to know you,” Resendiz said. “You’re actually like one of their kids in a way.
“At other schools, you might be one of those people that they don’t get to in order to answer the question,” she added. “Here, they’re not going to allow you to settle for mediocrity.”
Miller said the school program is designed to create what she called “career lattices.” She said the program introduces students to careers that are attainable by encouraging them to consider pursuing certificates as they progress so that they eventually earn college degrees at their own pace.
The hallways are quiet but the classrooms are busy at Forest Park Street School, which has three instructors for science, math and English/language arts.
A post-secondary education counselor helps students transition fromhigh school into college and career training programs, while the leadership coach helps students develop life skills.
Miller said young people are asked to do community service and get involved in mentoring and leadership development activities.
Tuition is a $500 admissions fee that can be waived based on income and need for the school’s regular education program. The program is on a block schedule Monday through Friday, from 8:20 a.m. until 3:45 p.m.
The school’s GED program, for residents 16-24, meets daily from noon until 4 p.m. To learn more, visit the school’s website at www.fpss.org.