Students of Fresh Start Academy hold mayoral forum

Published 12:57 pm Wednesday, October 20, 2021

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According to their Facebook page, “Fresh Start Academy works to improve the lives of young people, their families, and their communities by providing an opportunity to earn a high school diploma.” Fresh Start Academy (FSA) partnered with Sumter County Schools (SCS) to provide an alternative to traditional learning. Recommended by Dr. Torrance Choates, FSA was asked to partner with SCS over the existing alternative school, Ombudsman. FSA is housed in the old Staley School on North Lee Street. It has been updated and upon walking into the facility there is a fresh and exciting take on education. The labs and classrooms offer visually appealing wall hangings and paintings, and there is encouraging signage used throughout the school. To enter into FSA is enough to motivate you to learn. The staff come with a rich history of having successfully taught or provided leadership in prior settings. There is a very present sense these professionals are vested in seeing the students become not only successful but also know they have adults cheering for them. The students themselves were friendly and respectful to the guests. It was obvious they held themselves to level of a personal integrity and were serious about achieving. 

On Thursday, 10.13.21., a packed house came to watch the students hold a forum allowing the mayoral candidates, Marcell Baker, Lee Kinnamon and Javarise Terry to present their ideas. The room housing the forum was decorated in patriotic themes and the students were excited to hear from the candidates. Eighth graders Gary Moss and Avery High, along with twelfth graders, Xzandrian Clark and Kenneth Thomas served as hosts for the event and posed questions of all three candidates. Gary Moss states, “my favorite part about the forum was getting to know them individually as a person.”  It was a very thorough forum, as questions presented to the candidates included some general in nature, such as “Why to you want the job of mayor” to more specific to include plans on addressing housing options for those living under the poverty line. Of special concern for the audience were questions regarding youth mentorships, opportunity for youth employment and working in collaboration with the school system. 

The candidates remarked several times on the quality of the questions presented them. At the end, each candidate expressed their appreciation for being hosted and agreed this was one of the best and most enjoyable forums they have participated in. The candidates encouraged the students to continue in their efforts to succeed in school. Javarise Terry let the audience know he was a student of Lee Kinnamon’s and they shared some of their memories. Marcell Baker expressed that although the three candidates are opponents, they have made good relationships with each other and there are plans to stay involved in moving the city forward. 

As the forum was closing the Interim Superintendent, Walter Knighton, remarked on how impressive the event was and congratulated the students on a well-run forum. He also mentioned the creativity of FSA for teaching in such a manner and not being limited to only textbooks. He joined his voice to the candidates’ to keep expecting good learning experiences from SCS as the day’s event was an excellent way of providing an opportunity to learn in a fresh manner. 

In closing the forum, the students recognized many faces and offered a friendly hello or shook a hand. In reporting back to their class, the students were allowed one more opportunity to show off their school as guests toured the facility and to see the progress alternative education has made. Welcome Fresh Start Academy to Sumter County Schools, they are tasked with ensuring learning reaches all students. It is a great pleasure to join with them as our students graduate prepared for higher education or to go straight into the workforce.