NASHVILLE – Georgia Governor Nathan Deal will help cut the ribbon on the Star Academy Program at Berrien Academy later in the month.

He is scheduled to visit the academy Tuesday, Oct. 31, according to an organizational press release. 

Berrien Academy Principal Michele Garner said she is eager to welcome Deal and other dignitaries so they can see firsthand what she has already witnessed during the fall semester.

“We have been very successful with our students, and our attendance rates have gone up dramatically,” Garner said. “Our students are very engaged in what they’re doing, very interested. You’re not seeing students who are getting bored. They’re actively participating in their learning, and it’s just awesome to see.” 

Other dignitaries expected to attend the ribbon cutting include State Rep. Penny Houston, Berrien County Schools Superintendent Lilli Drawdy, Berrien County Board of Education Chairperson Julie Williams and Berrien Academy Governing Board Chairperson Steven Mathis, according to the academy.

The Star Academy Program is designed as an intervention and acceleration solution. Students focus on English, math, science, and social studies intensively through engaging hands-on, computer-based curriculum designed to hold their interest and cater to their learning styles, whether auditory, visual or kinesthetic, according to the press release. 

The program has received the National Dropout Prevention Center’s Program Award of Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention and Prevention.

In addition to focusing on core academic courses, the program has a “goal-focused communication” component that involves students, parents, teachers and counselors communicating proactively and openly and working toward the common goal of student success. 

Garner, who is in her third year as principal at Berrien, said the Star Academy’s purpose is primarily to reengage freshmen who haven’t responded to traditional classroom teaching for a variety of reasons including lack of interest, social and emotional issues, and a need for more one-on-one attention. 

“Our goal is to get them into a more nurturing environment and get them a more engaging curriculum that, hopefully, will build their interest in school and also nurture those other needs that they have so they will want to come to school every day,” she said.

Students who successfully complete the program could be ahead of their age peers academically, as they will earn science credits in environmental science and biology. And they’ll also have earned credits in Foundations of Algebra and Algebra 1 instead of just a single math course. 

The Berrien County area should benefit long-term as at-risk students will develop 21st-century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving that make them more employable and equipped for college and further skill development, according to the press release. 

“I think it is going to impact our graduation rate, which will in turn impact those students who go on to some kind of postsecondary training,” Garner said. “I think we’ll have a better workforce, and I think they’re learning how to develop social skills to work with all different kinds of people.”


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