Workshops bond students, staff at Rise Up Academy

Published: Sep. 7, 2018 at 4:33 PM EDT
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"Rise up! Rise up!"

Students and staff rejoice as flames rip through paper outside of South Bend's Rise Up Academy.

"So we burn these and we have clean slates," Guidance Counselor Anne Marie Coglianese said to the crowd.

Each piece of paper is a note from a student about what is - or, now, what was - holding them back.

It's the end to a dayslong workshop where students opened up and learned how their school handles discipline differently than others in the district.

"It shows me that they care, because they want to see us succeed rather than not caring if we graduate or not," senior Samantha Pellaton said.

Pellaton transferred here after almost being expelled from another South Bend school.

"It seemed more like they wanted us to fall into line, into a cookie cutter image," she added.

In one workshop, Pellaton and her classmates bonded over a game before watching a video about restorative justice, a program she says helps her tackle her problems while keeping her in school.

"Some of them have been suspended in traditional schools, they've been used to not attending schools," Principal Francois Bayingana said.

"So usually when you do the circles and talk about some of the issues, the importance of coming to school ... not fighting or getting into the drama, it really helps them understand," he added.

School leaders believe that teaching students to better address conflict will better prepare for life after graduation.