Hannah Scott has been out of school for six months.

At 17, she’s supposed to be a senior in high school, but instead she’s starting over at the Bridge Academy where she will work to complete her diploma.
“This is my second chance,” said Scott, who has moved around a lot and added that her life was derailed when her father and grandfather died. “I got into a lot of trouble as a freshman at South Side High School. I was written up 23 times and suspended five times. I’m not proud of that at all and I’ve learned from my mistakes.”

Scott was one of 27 students on Tuesday to begin classes at the Bridge Academy, an alternative school implemented through a partnership with Jackson-Madison County Schools and the Ombudsman.

On Tuesday morning, about 16 students completed intake paperwork and took tests to determine their academic level.

“We need to know where they land before we begin working with them,” said Jody Murphy, Ombudsman operations manager. “Want to make sure that the work we give it’s not too easy or too challenging.”

Students can select to attend the morning session beginning at 7:30 until 11:15 a.m. or the afternoon session, which starts at 11:30 a.m. and continues until 3:30 p.m.

The Bridge Academy is located at 180 Old Hickory Blvd.

To attend, students must meet one or more areas on the list of criteria and be recommended by the principal of their school.

“A student would have to have poor attendance, poor performance, low credit count or be a nontraditional learner,” said Doris Battle, deputy superintendent of Jackson-Madison County Schools. “We’ll take a student that may still have a negative impact on our graduation rate. We’re not going to turn them away if a spot is available and there’s not a list to get into the academy.”

Scott said she appreciates the opportunity to attend Bridge Academy.

“It took a lot for me to get here,” Scott said. “I need to get my education and do something I feel positive about. I’m glad I’ll be able to work at my own pace and earn the credits I need to graduate.”

Bridge Academy director Teresa Marshall had Scott as a seventh grader at West Middle School. Marshall has taught in the Milan, Memphis City and Jackson-Madison County School districts.

“We’re excited to have this partnership with Jackson-Madison County,” said Marshall, who will also help students with English course work. “We’re in it to win and we’re here for the students.”

Jackson Central-Merry High School referred a majority of the students attending Bridge Academy, but there are students from Liberty Technology, North Side and South Side represented as well, Marshall said.

Battle said the district has budgeted $1.2 million for the program.

A contract agreement has been signed with Ombudsman, and the program will cost $5,650 per student and $170,000 for the spring semester. The district is using federal Race to the Top dollars to pay for the program.

JCM junior Lakia Bowen, 16, and her parents completed her registration paperwork Tuesday. Bowen will begin attending Bridge Academy today.

“I’m in favor of her doing anything that’s going to help her succeed,” said Tyrone Sterling, Bowen’s father.

“She’s going to get more attention here and receive job training and skills,” added Diane Bowen, Bowen’s mother.

At JCM, Bowen has used credit recovery twice, a computerized learning system that helps students make up credits not earned from a course.

Bowen said she’s not disappointed with her reassignment to the Bridge Academy.

“I still get to go to my school’s prom,” she said. “I am going to miss my medical class, but I’m going to be close to home, be able to get a job, do community service.”

Bridge Academy students are required to participate in community service projects as well as required volunteer and work study hours.
Officials with the school said the academy will have a 10-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. An open house will be held soon to introduce the program to the community.

“I was proud to see 21 students lined up outside at 7:30 a.m.,” Battle said. “They were eager to complete the intake process and begin working with the Bridge Academy staff. It’s been a long process to open. We’ve had several hurdles trying to implement the opening, but it was worth every struggle that we had.”