Academy helps students who are at risk

WARREN — An alternative program designed to help young people facing suspensions or expulsion from area schools received a $44,607 grant from the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

The Academy, 1948 Palmyra Road SW, has been working with area schools and Trumbull County Juvenile Court to create opportunities for young people that need academic and social assistance. The Rev. Alton Merrell, pastor of New Jerusalem Fellowship Church and the program’s founder, said the program is designed to help children move forward from sometimes difficult situations in their homes and at school.

“This grant will enable us to extend our computer lab from three computers to nine, increase opportunities to provide transportation for participants, and compensate some of the time of our volunteers,” Merrell said.

The Academy stresses providing at-risk teenagers a structured environment where they go to maintain their academics during times they are out of school, a place where they can talk among themselves and others about their concerns , and a place where they are safe, according to its website.

“We have worked with the Warren City Schools and the Trumbull County Juvenile Court,” Merrell said.

The program operates 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays at the Renaissance Place, which is owned by New Jerusalem Fellowship Church. Merrell plans to have it open every Tuesday through Thursday, depending on the community’s demand.

“During our first year-and-a-half in operation, we’ve primarily been able to operate because of the time and donations provided by our volunteers, including William Pinn, myself and others,” Merrell said. “I’ve gotten New Jerusalem to agree to allow us to use its church bus and a volunteer driver for the program.”

Merrell made a presentation to the Warren Board of Education last month asking it to allow its principals to offer parents and students the option to attend The Academy’s programs.

“We want parents to know that if they have students on suspension or who have been expelled they can be sent here from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., where they may be fed and have a structured program,” Merrell said. “It is better than having them at home alone or out with people that may not have their best interests in mind.”