Central Davie remains true to mission of getting students back in regular classrooms

Published 2:01 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

When students start attending Central Davie Academy, chances are they are not happy – with their school situation or themselves.

But after a few months, when it’s time to go back to their designated school, chances are that they’re still not happy. They’re more likely to like themselves, but this time, the unhappiness is because they have to leave Central Davie, not go there.

It’s stories like these that warm Esther LaRoque’s heart.

LaRoque, an instructional assistant, has been at Central Davie since it opened in 2006. The school focuses on keeping at-risk students in school. The students are referred to Central Davie, usually because of behavior or attendance problems.

“We have a small staff, and the core is to work on behavior and attendance. The students get the attention they need here.

“I listen to them. I treat them as people. They just want you to hear them,” she said. “I do what I can to support them so they can go back to their regular school.”

She began as a behavior assistant, a job she learned from former principal, Beth Edwards. LaRoque has performed every job at the school except teaching.

“Most of these students want to better, they just don’t know how. They may come in thinking ‘I’m a bad kid.’ I tell them, ‘You’re not a bad kid, you just made some bad choices’.

“A lot of them have fallen through the cracks, and we can help them recover some credits (so they can go back to their school at the same academic level).”

As she works mostly with middle-school age students, the days can be stressful. She applied for an office job, but was talked into taking the behavior assistant position “I got on-the-job training,” she said.

“I do it for the kids. They are my passion. A lot of them can’t see past their situation and don’t think they can be successful.”

LaRoque has had family members benefit from similar school programs in another state, so she jumped at the chance when she heard of the job opening at the new school.

“I love it. I love being hands on. I wanted to be a part of helping kids get back on track.”

The school strives for a therapeutic environment that is program and result based, she said. On the first day, they were shown a ripped up silhouette of a kid and told, “That’s what you’re getting.”

“I want to be just a small piece of putting that puzzle back together.”

The students, she said, just want to be recognized for something positive. Many haven’t received that at school before, or at home, or especially from their peers. Some are victims of bullying, which she said has gotten worse because of the pandemic and social media.

“These kids just make my day, every day,” LaRoque said. “You would be surprised how excited these kids get from a simple ‘Good Job’, or getting a treat. They just want to be noticed.”

LaRoque said Central Davie employees have to be flexible.

“You can’t take anything personally, and you must have a positive attitude, because it’s not easy every day.”

Sometimes, students return to visit and say thank you. Staff relishes when they see a former student leave only to excel at their designated school.

“It’s a very rewarding job.”