HOPE Academy hosts new program kickoff event

Published 7:03 pm Monday, November 4, 2019

There was an unusual amount of activity at HOPE Academy on Saturday morning, as parents, students and teachers gathered at the school to learn about development, empowerment and resilience.

Saturday was the family engagement kick-off for Unpacking the Blueprint Leadership, a program that aims to equip the next generation of leaders to drive impact through others, creating a better world for all. The program has been around for 30 years, but it is still new to Troup County. A group of Clayton State University students led the workshops and made the material relatable and actionable.

“They are going through activities designed for setting goals, understanding that when you set goals there may be some setbacks, and when you have those setbacks, you need to have some kind of resilience,” said Dr. Glenn Dowell of Great Achievement Youth Empowerment. “So, resilience is going to be key. All of the activities here are associated with empowerment, and that is, how do you make your dream come true?”

Dowell said he hopes the program will help students throughout Troup County and beyond, with Hope Academy serving as the starting point. The students taking part in the workshops were actively encouraged to think of themselves as potential leaders of positive change throughout the exercises.

“The students designed this workshop, so that it culminates in a vision board activity,” said Dr. Sipai Klein, an English professor from Clayton State University. “They create a visual representation of who they want to be down the road, which would in turn help them make them participants in their respective communities. It takes them away from where am I right now, to who can I be and become down the road?”

The workshops openly acknowledged possible road blocks for the students on their way to their goals, while emphasizing that one failure does not necessarily put a goal — whether that be a dream school or a dream job — out of reach.

“So, if you’re looking at being empowered to do it, there are certain steps you have to take before that dream comes true,” Dowell said. “That is what we are doing — assisting in their development, empowerment, resilience so that you understand that everybody fails, and when you fail, don’t give up. If you can go through all of that, you have something called self-actualization.”

LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar spoke to the students and parents during the kick-off, explaining the impact of one person’s actions on everyone around them. 

“What the blueprint does is it provides them with those tools where they can take advantage of opportunities and create this notion of getting themselves out of their current situation and into one where they’re able to grow,” Dekmar said. “They’re able to participate as a contributing member of the community, and they’re able to provide leadership to others.”

According to Hope Academy Principal Jason Yohn, the school has a number of students that are considered at risk of not graduating, but he hopes that through the Blueprint program and increased parental involvement, those students can overcome the obstacles that brought them to Hope Academy in the first place.

“I think this program is going to help provide some skills to help kids adapt and cope with some of the things that they are going through that may cause them to make improper choices,” Yohn said. 

Several community leaders spoke at the event, and Dekmar noted that the workshop gives the students an opportunity to interact with positive role models. Yohn emphasized its potential for building relationships between the students and the parents in attendance.

“I think it is about building quality relationships with each other to have a healthier family environment in order to provide support,” Yohn said. “What we try to do is we try to involve parents in everything that goes on — whether that is a positive thing or when there are times when things are not quite so positive … We are building that capacity for parents to communicate, and it helps us communicate as well. We want to be able to provide a supportive environment.”

Blueprint Leadership is expected to be part of that supportive environment, and the program is being customized to specifically meet the needs of the students at Hope Academy.

“Our part in this is to take what was called the blueprint document — which was created about 30 years ago — and to revise it to make it more relevant to students now and to this target audience,” Klein said. “So, updating the language, updating the images, updating the activities [are parts of the project].”

According to Klein, feedback from the students and parents at the event will be used to make future workshops better for students and parents that can be utilized by Greater Achievement Youth Empowerment. 

Yohn said the program will likely really get going in January and will include mentoring and skill-based teaching.