Detroit — Dazmon Taylor was bullied in school for being gay, so he took the easy way out.
He dropped out and became a statistic. Eleven percent of all Michigan students dropped out in 2009-10, according to Michigan School Data.
“I was verbally assaulted, and my life was threatened while I attended Northwestern High School,” said Dazmon, 17, a senior. “When I transferred to Western International Academy, the kids laughed at me and made comments like, ‘Don’t sit next to him. He’s gay.’ I couldn’t handle it so I just stopped going to school altogether.”
Then he saw an advertisement for Fusion Academy of Michigan West. The academy bills itself as an alternative program for students who have dropped out or been expelled from school and want a second chance to earn a diploma.
Students at the academy are encouraged to pursue their dreams of becoming professionals such as cardiologists, fashion designers and trucking company owners.
“Having something like this is a blessing,” said Dazmon, who wants to be a clinical psychologist. “I want to help people who are dealing with mental illnesses, so I can be that vessel they can come talk to instead of running away from their problems like I did.”
Center director Erica Freeman-Jones said: “The students are not judged here. We’re like family.”
Fusion, which also has an east-side campus on Warren and Connor and has a total of about 150 students between both campuses, combines online course work with face-to-face instruction from certified teachers. Students attend one of three 4 1/2-hour sessions daily.
The school is operated by Connections Education, a Baltimore-based provider of virtual education programs, and Ombudsman, a Nashville-based company that serves students who learn better in non-traditional settings.
The setting appears to work for sophomore Sapphire Doss, 17. She attended Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences where she said she received A’s and B’s, but fell in with the wrong crowd.
“I got into a lot of fights and got suspended so many times, I’d only be in school for maybe a week at a time,” she said.
But her dream of becoming a doctor stayed in the forefront. “Now that I’m going to this school, I’m here every day,” she said. “The teachers are very supportive, and I enjoy being here.”
She already knows what she’ll specialize in after medical school: cardiology.