Students catch up two years worth of work through SPAN

Published 10:51 am Thursday, February 24, 2022

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By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

Falling behind in school can cause a student to feel like there is no hope of completing their high school diploma.

The SPAN of Chilton County program helps these students catch up to their grade level or get their GED.

“They are referred to us through the juvenile court system,” Amanda Hicks, program coordinator of SPAN of Chilton County told the Clanton Kiwanis Club at a recent meeting. “They may not be in legal trouble yet, but they are headed that way when they are referred to us.”

Some students are in legal trouble and are on probation.

“Usually, they are about two years behind, and we help them catch up to their correct grade level or as close to it as we can get,” Hicks said. “Sometimes they are more than two years behind, and it is hard to get them exactly where they are supposed to be, depending on how old they are.”

There were 40 students served during the 2021 fiscal year with 80% successfully completing the program, which can be up to a year. Of these students, 31% obtained their GED and found employment.

Others returned to their regular school, and one was recommended to an adult education program to complete their GED.

“Our goals are a lot of times academic based, but usually the reason they are there is not because of their academics, there is something else going on in their lives and that is why they get behind,” Hicks said.

Sometimes this is because the students have changed schools several times.

In addition to Hicks, the program has two teachers and two counselors.

“Every day, they have group counseling, and they are working on anger management, communication skills, social skills, job readiness, all of that kind of stuff,” Hicks said.

Students also have one-on-one counseling once a week.

“The two counselors that we have right now are very capable of doing therapy and not just base level counseling,” Hicks said. “One is certified in substance abuse counseling, and one is certified in trauma counseling, so that covers most of the issues that our students have. We want to help them work on their entire selves before they go back to school or before they get their GED … We want them to be able to problem solve. We want them to be able to disagree with people respectfully.”

The program receives funding from the state to cover the basics, but an advisory board that is a nonprofit organization helps create funds for extras and incentives.

“We try to reward them (students) for doing what they are supposed to do because they haven’t necessarily been taught what they are supposed to do yet,” Hicks said.

Students who complete their classwork and attend the counseling session can earn special trips. Hicks said students can earn monthly incentive trips.

“We have students in our program who have never been out of Chilton County,” Hicks said. “These incentive trips are more than just fun trips. It’s letting them see that there is more out there than what they see at home.”

It was finally earning an incentive trip that provided the motivation for a student who previously had put little to no effort into learning to apply himself and complete the program and get on track for graduation.

“It was amazing the change that he had,” Hicks said.

She said these trips are only possible through continued community support. For information about ways to support the program, visit