The TROY Center School for middle and high school students recently hosted an open house to show off its new space in Columbia City.

The independent accredited alternative learning school started 20 years ago as an after school program that grew into a day program and received accreditation in 2012.

The school helps students gain an education and earn a diploma at their own pace while supported by a team of teachers, counselors and support staff. TROY stands for “Teaching and Reaching Our Youth.”

Executive Director Nicole Trier said the school’s approach is about removing barriers to education.

“These obstacles are different for every student,” she said.

For some, it could be that they don’t have heat at their house, their water’s been turned off or there’s not enough food in the house. Others might need a proper mattress or winter clothes.

Childcare might be an obstacle for young parents, so the school offers a teen parenting program and allows them to bring their baby to school.

For any crack a student could fall through, the TROY Center School wants to be there to catch them.

“Every kid deserves to have a team behind them that wants to see them succeed and loves them and cares about them … So many of these kids have had people and institutions and programs give up on them and we’re just not going to give up,” Trier said.

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A new beginning

While the educational services have been ongoing since 1997, the school’s location has changed a number of times due to financial considerations. Most recently, the school was located at Trinity Presbyterian Church.

Last year, the school purchased a building at 1911 E. Business 30 in Columbia City with the help of grants from the Community Foundation of Whitley County and the McMillen Foundation.

On Feb. 20 and 27, the TROY Center School held an open house for visitors to see its new home, which opened in January.

The school serves 36 students and, with the added space, it will be able to accommodate up to 50 students. The school has been operating with a waiting list, but the increased capacity will ensure students aren’t turned away, Trier said.

School features

The new building also allows for separate spaces for middle and high school students. The school has several classrooms where students can learn in small groups.

The school has 14 part-time staff members including six teachers, two administrators and six support staff with counseling or social work backgrounds that serve as case managers.

The new school also includes a breakroom where students can lounge on the couch, work on homework, socialize or meet with a case manager.

The TROY Center School has also partnered with Sweetwater to provide a music room with instruments where students can take lessons or engage in music therapy.

The school also offers opportunities for students to work with area employers to get career experience from job shadowing to internships to part or full time work experiences. Trier wants employers to know that when they take on a student, they also get the support of the school’s staff.

“We can work on the skills that they need so that they can be the best employees for these businesses. We want to know what needs there are in the community,” she said.

Community Engagement Coordinator Elizabeth Baxter said the goal is to build a bridge between the student’s education and career by exploring career pathways in the community.

“If there’s anyone out there who wants to be involved with us or partner with us, we’re going to be on the lookout for that in the near future,” she said.

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Reaching students

The TROY Center School has partnerships with Whitko Community School Corporation and Smith-Green Community Schools that allow administrators to refer students directly and the alternative school also gets private referrals. Students come from Whitley, Huntington, Noble, Kosciusko and Allen counties.

If a student is failing to thrive in a traditional classroom, Trier encourages the student and his or her family to see if the TROY Center School might be a good fit for them.

Sometimes students stay until graduation and other times students return to a traditional classroom after spending time in the therapeutic environment, Trier said.

Students are typically awarded some amount of tuition assistance ranging from partial to full scholarships. The school holds fundraising events for tuition assistance each summer.

The TROY Center School is in need of volunteers and there are many opportunities available from help with mailings, help in classrooms and help serving lunch, Trier said.

In addition, the school is also accepting donations of toilet paper, paper towels, copy paper and other office supplies, cleaning products and healthy snacks.

For more information about TROY Center School, visit troyalternativeschool.com.