"I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." This quote from Invictus by William Ernest Henley covers the walls, papers, and virtual classrooms of the Swartz Creek Academy, a non-traditional education platform where students come to personify the phrase. "It is our ethos, if you will," says October 2016 Resilience in Action Award recipient Richard K. Thompson, Dean of Students at the Academy and influential alternative education advocate. "No matter what happened before, they have the power over their future."
With a passion for motivational latin phrases, Thompson fills the halls with expressions and sayings meant to inspire his students to action. He believes responsibility is the key concept for all students, and he works to ensure this message is consistent for youth of all backgrounds and learning styles. "Virtus et Scientia," Thompson explains, " is our motto. It means schools have the character formation, and then the education."
Thompson believes every student is a possibility, not a challenge. "It is my honor!" he exclaims. Students at the Swartz Creek Academy include both referred and volunteer students. "Some are homeschooled, some are truant, some are phobic, some come by choice or are looking for advanced placement options." No matter the background, students are welcomed into a learning environment where they are responsible for their own successes. Thompson incorporates a Power Desk theory, where students and educators sit level at a round table. This is also an example of how the facility exemplifies Surrendering the One-Up practices.
Conferences are student-led, and students are expected to answer for their own progress. Each student submits a data portfolio, which he or she is accountable for each morning. "If this is the student's journey, why is the student not in the lead?" Thompson questions.
"We believe in intervention as opposed to suspension or detention," Richard continues. "No matter what is thrown at these students or where they come from, they have the opportunity to have the world at their fingertips. We want them to change from the victim to the victor! Although our population is around 80% free and reduced, we aren't using anything as an excuse. We are plowing through and creating opportunities. Resilience changes the path of their direction in life. Along with our Henley quote, we use a compass. The star is the student taking responsibility for his or her own life."
"We teach students 'ex malo bonum' - out of bad comes good. Somehow you got to this point, and we're going to turn that around."
In addition to his work at the Academy, Thompson holds membership with several top educational influencers, including the National Alternative Education Association (NAEA), the National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC), and the National Global Conference. He is also an Alternative Education National Consultant.
Thompson is presently working on a resource project called Latin Life Lesson - With Mr. T. While currently found only as an online platform, Thompson hopes to publish his works for learners of all ages and locations to enjoy. The books will be a series, with weekly motivational Latin phrases for readers to focus on. By incorporating a linking QR code, Thompson hopes to send readers to the online platform where they can research the phrase, reflect on their own lives, incorporate other quotes from prominant figures, and enjoy multi-sensory extras such as original songs and more.
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