Ingham Academy is an alternative high school in Lansing that gives youth involved in the court system a chance to earn a diploma while learning necessary life skills. It is run with a partnership between Ingham Intermediate School District, Highfields, and the Ingham County Circuit Court.
Joanna Hayes began working at Highfields 13 years ago as a counselor in the Residential Treatment Program. She enjoyed her role working with the kids in the program and helping them become successful. She eventually changed roles, and began working with students at Ingham Academy’s PRIDE program where she ran the refocus space for students, which is a room where staff assist and guide them to redirect and return to a calm internal state, ready for learning.
Now, as Program Director of Ingham Academy, Joanna is focusing on more in-depth training for staff to better understand students and their experiences. The only problem is trying to do so during a pandemic that restricts face-to-face interaction.
Like many schools, Ingham Academy wasn’t prepared for the sudden move to remote learning. There were technology problems for both staff and students. Some students don’t have access to technology or the internet, leaving it difficult for staff to send assignments and paperwork to them, and document attendance.
“Although we’ve had a lot of struggles, we’re working through them,” said Joanna. “It’s given us a chance to step away and focus on what’s important.”
Joanna and Ingham Academy staff has continued to work diligently on enhancing their program virtually, mainly focusing on maintaining relationships with students throughout this new journey.
Joanna has stayed driven toward helping students reach graduation day and set goals for their future.
“Every student we reach has a chance for a better future,” said Joanna.