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Birmingham's Maranathan Academy casts net to help adults, at-risk students

Joseph D. Bryant | jbryant@al.comBy Joseph D. Bryant | 
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on December 27, 2011 at 11:00 AM
Donna Dukes - Maranatha Academy 2011.JPGView full sizeDonna Dukes instructs students Lamonica Dean, left, and LaVondria Travis, right, at the Maranatha Academy, a private school that specializes in giving at-risk children and nontraditional students a second chance.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Stories like Patricia Adams-Mauldin's are among the reasons Donna Dukes founded her Maranathan Academy in Birmingham more than 20 years ago.

When Adams-Mauldin attended a friend's graduation she had no idea that the day would also become the first toward her own path to success. She was in the audience when the words from the private school's principal resonated long after the ceremony had ended.

"I went to the graduation twice, and during the last one she encouraged the adults there that if they didn't have their high school diploma it was not too late," she recalled Dukes saying from the stage.

At 43, Adams-Mauldin had spent her time as a wife, mother and grandmother, working to support her family, but not giving much thought to the task she left unfinished decades earlier.

But this month it was Adams-Mauldin who walked across the stage to cheering friends and family, a diploma finally clutched in her hand.

Reaching more students like Adams-Mauldin are part of new efforts by Dukes to reach adults well past school age who lack a diploma.

While the school has always had a mix of school-aged and nontraditional students, Dukes said she sees a growing need for outreach to older students who have already begun their lives but are stymied without a high school diploma.

"She seemed to relish and enjoy the whole idea of going back to school. Mrs. Adams-Mauldin is just the epitome of the adults we love to work with," Dukes said. "The enthusiasm she has shown is just inspirational."

The school is located in a small white house in the Kingston neighborhood where only a tiny white sign tacked on the porch gives a hint of what goes on inside.

The alternative private school specializes in giving at-risk children a second chance as well as nontraditional students, including adults. Students who can pay tuition pay, while private donations and fundraisers cover those who need assistance.

Adams-Mauldin's high school path to graduation took a detour in 1986 when her mother died. She was in 11th grade at Carver High School.

"When she died, I basically gave up," Adams-Mauldin recalled during a visit to the school. "When I was taking the tests, it just wasn't there."

Adams-Mauldin married, had a family and worked in fast food. She knew something was missing, a void that was highlighted at that graduation ceremony.

"I knew I could do better," she said. "I want to own my own business. I want to be a chef."

Adams-Mauldin balanced family, work and studying with her family support. Just as she had cheered for others nearing graduation, this was her turn.

At Maranathan Academy, Adams-Mauldin could keep working full time, while completing most of her school assignments at home.

"I just asked God to give me the strength where I was able to do my work and take care of my family," she said.

Adams-Mauldin now plans to begin culinary school.

"Everything happens for a reason. If there's anybody out there who hasn't gotten their education, they need to do like I did," Adams-Mauldin said. "The young folks and the younger people -- if I can do it I know they can, too."






























































Graduation means a second chance for college and career

MALCOMB DANIELS News staff writer
Publication Date: December 12, 2010  Page: 15-A  Section: LOCAL  NEWS  Zone: BX  Edition: Volume 123 Issue 274

Nakita Pritchett said she grew up in Gate City in an environment of drugs and violence.
She dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, ''trying to grow up too fast'' and hanging around with the wrong crowd, she said. Later, she started going to church, and her faith set her on a new path, ''realizing I had to get my act together.''
On Saturday, the 25-year-old Pritchett of Birmingham was one of 19 Maranathan Academy students to receive their high school diplomas during a ceremony at the L.R. Hall Auditorium in Birmingham.
The private school offers at-risk students and adults such as Pritchett chances to earn diplomas.
At Saturday's graduation, unlike at most ceremonies, families and friends were invited to cheer as loud as they could when the names of their loved ones were called, as long as they agreed to finish by the time next person was set to come across the stage.
Pritchett, who finished as the class' salutatorian, plans to go to college and become a social worker. She held a full-time job at the Jimmie Hale Mission while working to get her diploma at Maranathan.
Pritchett said back when she dropped out of high school, she tried a couple of programs to get her GED, but neither of them worked out. She said she is a living example of why a person should never give up.
Pritchett told the crowd to ''remember you're responsible for your own destiny in life.''
She urged people to ignore those who attempt to discourage.
Donna Dukes, the director of Maranathan Academy, called Pritchett ''one of the most inspirational people I ever met.''
She said in recent years that Maranathan, which has been in existence 20 years, has seen more non-traditional adults such as Pritchett wanting to come back and finish their education.
Pritchett said Maranathan Academy worked out for her because she could keep working full time, while completing most of her schoolwork at home.
''It feels great,'' she said less than hour before she was set to get her high school diploma. ''That's something that has always been in the back of my mind.''