The Youth-at-Risk Conference recognized Gainesville Exploration Academy as a runner-up for its list of High-Flying Schools.
The Gainesville elementary school was one of eight schools in the honorable mention category behind five schools honored for their success in achieving academic success, community collaboration, citizenship development and democratic education. More than 50 schools across the nation applied for the honor.
Georgia Southern University College of Education sponsors the conference in partnership with the university’s Continuing Education Center. Janice Reynolds, program development specialist for Georgia Southern Continuing Education Center, said the 21-year-old conference provides comprehensive professional development for adults who serve youth in areas such as education, health care, social services and law enforcement.
She said the honor recognizes principals and their staff who oversee a flourishing, diverse student body that has at least 50 percent of its students living in poverty.
"We’ve been giving out an award to honor schools that have gone above and beyond for achievement," Reynolds said. "It was really hard to select just five, so this year we chose to honor eight more for honorable mention."
Award winners will receive the honor March 1 at the conference in Savannah.
Priscilla Collins, principal of Gainesville Exploration Academy, said the school’s staff aims to instill in students much more than the tenets of the state curriculum. She said students repeat an oath each morning to respect themselves and others and to work hard to achieve their goals.
Collins said 93 percent of the school’s 850 or so students live in poverty. She said 70 percent of students are Hispanic and 13 percent are black.
She said student participation in annual projects, such as adopting 65 of the school’s most needy families and providing them with dinner and toys for Christmas, is part of the school’s mission to develop well-rounded students.
"Their life is about more than school: reading, writing and arithmetic," Collins said. "We’re building elementary schools that have students who will be productive members of society. They are helping others who are less fortunate than them. When they grow up, hopefully they will remember what they learned in elementary school. These are the people who will be our community leaders one day."