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2 students graduate from Phoenix Program, proving that success is not one size fits all

The program serves students from 14 area school districts, many of whom struggle in a regular high school setting.

CARBON CLIFF, Ill. — Graduation season is in full swing. But for two area students, they were not sure this day would ever come. 

They are part of the Bethany-Black Hawk Phoenix Program, located in Carbon Cliff, that serves students from 14 school districts who struggled in a regular high school setting. 

"It's just crazy, because I didn't think I was gonna make it, but everybody believed in me," graduate Dylan Carter said.

Dylan's mom Danielle says various behavioral challenges may have slowed him down, but perseverance shined through.

"It's been a long process with him," Danielle said. "He's had his ups and downs. He wanted to give up and we told him giving up is not the way to go."

On top of education, the Phoenix Program focuses on strengthening the fibers of family relationships. "We really work hard on the family piece," said principal Michelle Hammond. "So we do have good close relationships with the parents in most cases."

Dylan says he and his parents used to argue frequently, and even though things aren't perfect, his social worker has helped him find strategies to calm down easier. He now has his sights set on taking some engineering classes and becoming a mechanic. 

The Phoenix Program has roughly 50 kids enrolled from 3rd to 12th grade.

Bethany for Children & Families, a non-profit child welfare and social services provider based on Moline, coordinates with Black Hawk Area Special Education District on the program.

Bethany provides mental and behavioral health support to students, while Black Hawk provides the academic instruction. 

Goals of the Phoenix Program include teaching anger reduction and empathy, returning the students to their home school or helping them obtain a high school diploma, and keeping them out of the legal and court system.

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