Throughout his life, Emmitt Carney has seen a lot of young people lose their way.
As he was growing up, Carney had friends who died from overdoses, a friend who was shot and killed in a drug deal gone wrong and family members who were caught up in the criminal justice system.
And now the retired Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent is trying to help other young people avoid those pitfalls. He’s launching the Marion Academy, one of nine new Marion County charter schools that will be added to the 38 previously available to parents.
The end of the school year saw five charter schools close, whereas previous years saw one or two, said Kristin Hines, director of the city of Indianapolis’ Office of Education Innovation.
But with nine new options, families will have more specialized charter schools to choose from for their children’s education, whether fulfilling a desire for a music-oriented curriculum, working in an accelerated academic program or enrolling at a school that could simply help their child get a high school diploma.
Marion Academy serves as a supportive and structured environment for students who have been expelled or have been involved with the juvenile justice system and who have nowhere else to go for an education. It aims to give troubled kids a second chance at earning an Indiana Core 40 high school diploma and other industry-recognized certifications.
Carney, the retired ATF agent, recalled working undercover years ago in Kentucky. He had come across a 13-year-old boy exchanging money and drugs. The boy’s dad was in jail, and his mother was always working.
“It was his way of surviving. Kids need something that they can see and hold onto and believe in,” Carney said. “The fear is in the unknown. I’m working in association with a juvenile detention center as well. I want to give these kids a chance to get back into society.”
Carney was among the first generation in his family to graduate from college, and he wants to instill educational values in others. “I remember one of my friends questioning my goals, and then I went on to receive a baseball scholarship,” he said. “I later became the first black special agent from my home county.”
Through the academy, Carney hopes to provide kids with some structure and support, focusing on understanding what each has gone through and the challenges they continue to face and preparing them for life after high school.
One of the factors that led him to start the academy was his experience coaching youth baseball. He plans to weave sports throughout the curriculum to inspire and open their eyes to all the opportunities the city has to offer.
Here is a look at the other new charter schools opening this fall:
Tindley Genesis Academy
Tindley Genesis Academy is a new elementary school that will use an accelerated curriculum in which students generally work at an academic level one grade ahead. Its music and arts program will be a major focus, although Beverly Rella, external relations director for Tindley Schools, emphasized that it is not a performing arts school.
“Our students will receive some kind of performing arts training each day, which will help enhance their overall learning,” she said. “We will offer special programs to our scholars through our strong relationships with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, The Children’s Museum and the Repertory Theatre.”
Indiana College Preparatory
Indiana College Preparatory will be for Grades K-8, offering free after-school tutoring for students who seek assistance beyond school hours. There will be a two-teacher model for Grades K-2. Unlike many charter schools, this school’s athletics program will be part of CYO Sports. There will be a strong emphasis on maintaining a healthy work/life balance between studies and extracurricular activities such as physical education, debating, art and music. The school will provide free bus transportation.
Early Career Academy
Also new to Indianapolis is the STEM-focused Early Career Academy. The school allows students in Grades 11 and 12 to pursue a high school diploma and an associate degree in Network Systems Administration or Electrical Engineering Technology from the ITT Technical Institute after graduation. Its educational model centers on career pathways and equipping students with practical skills used in a variety of professional organizations.
Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School East
The arts-infused curriculum of Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School East places emphasis on social development and the integration of diverse cultural opportunities in learning. Its program runs on an extended school year, a longer workday and smaller class sizes.
Carpe Diem’s ability-based program, which meets kids where they are in their learning rather than their age, will open the doors to Northwest and Shadelandcampuses in the fall. Carpe Diem Northwest will host a monthly speaker series in which professionals from various fields will encourage students to plan for their career goals. The first week of school will involve team-building exercises.
Excel Center University Heights
Erika Haskins, school director of Excel Center University Heights, said her team found that more than 10,000 adults within the 46227 Indianapolis ZIP code did not have a high school diploma or equivalent.
“Those figures are very high, and we found that there is such a strong need for a center like this in the area,” Haskins said.
“We know that some of our students will have children, so there will be a free day care center on site, and we will provide free transportation to those in need. Our goal is to prepare them for landing meaningful and sustainable jobs.”
The Excel Center provides a STEM pathway for employment in medical and manufacturing industries.
Christel House DORS West
On the Westside, Christel House DORS West will provide remedial or English as a second language assistance to those who need it on a multitrack system, allowing them to transition into a diploma program or a Gateway to College program for adult students.
Carey Dahncke, chief academic officer for the Christel House Academy Network of Schools, said the school is a second chance for adults to better equip themselves for the workforce.
“Many adults hit a roadblock where they cannot enroll in college, join the military, earn many of the valuable workplace credentials, earn promotions or gain employment,” he said. “DORS is a second chance for these adults.”