DENHAM SPRINGS -- A school for at-risk students received a pair of holiday gifts from the Livingston Council on Aging.
And pretty soon, both will hit the streets.
The Thrive Academy, a charter school that serves at-risk students in grades 6-12 through a five-day-a-week boarding program, received two 2011 Ford 350s from the Council on Aging, a timely gift for the growing institution.
COA Executive Director Kay Granger presented the keys to the 12-passenger vans to Demitria Larry, strategic director for The Thrive Foundation, who couldn’t stop thinking of the possibilities the new vehicles will provide the Baton Rouge school.
“This is part of the new fleet,” Larry said. “This is where we’re going. It’s time for us to move to another level.”
The donation came at the perfect time for The Thrive Academy, which was founded in 2011 by former teacher Sarah Broome following the death of a student at her school.
After being granted a charter by East Baton Rouge Parish, Thrive opened with a class of 20 sixth-graders in 2012. This May, the school will hold its first graduation when 21 seniors walk across the stage to take home their hard-earned diplomas.
At The Thrive Academy, students live on campus five days a week and are tasked with doing their own household chores in conjunction with school work and any extracurricular activities they participate in.
Mentors pick up students on Sundays and bring them back to their homes on Fridays, sometimes using their own vehicles to drive as far as Lafayette or Slidell. The school currently has 180 students enrolled in grades 6-12.
“To add these vans on, it’s going to help us transport kids to potential events, community service projects, athletic games,” Larry said. “Right now, our teams are spending an hour just to get somewhere to practice because we presently don’t have on-campus facilities. These vehicles are going to help immensely with that.”
Granger wasn’t sure what The Thrive Academy was when someone recommended them for the Council on Aging’s donation, but she soon found out.
“Someone sent me an email saying they knew someone looking for some vehicles, and I said send them my way,” Granger said. “Then [Larry and I] started talking, but I still didn’t know exactly what they did until I looked up their website, and then I was like, ‘Yes, we’re definitely going to help them.’
“When you find out it’s kids that really need it, it makes you feel even better.”
To Larry, the COA’s donation will assist The Thrive Academy in its goal of helping students “become the best version of themselves” and ultimately erase what she calls a “negative” stigma surrounding at-risk students.
“We live in a society that as soon as someone hears the word ‘at-risk,’ they automatically put it on the kids,” Larry said. “But some of these kids are in situations where their parents have been incarcerated [or] have had traumatic situations themselves that make it very hard for the kids to live at home. Some live with their grandparents, and we even have some parents who just need somewhere for their kids to be in the evenings so they can work.
“People just think it’s a school for bad kids, but no, there are a lot of stories where kids just needed the right structure to succeed and be the best version of themselves,” Larry said.
The vans will soon get a makeover.
Larry said both vehicles will be wrapped in The Thrive Academy’s logo, and both will receive new tires. The vans will be unveiled to students when they return to school from the Christmas break, and mentors will have to obtain a chauffeur’s license in order to drive them.
“Just logistically, adding two of those 12-passenger vans is going to help us accommodate so much more,” Larry said. “Presently, we have a couple of minivans and a couple of sedans, but the kids seeing something new coming in will show them that people are investing in them and want to see them succeed.”