Marnessa Vital, program director, said the program was proposed, accepted and launched in response to a widespread issue of suspended students "causing problems" in their local communities.
Vital said initially, a roundtable community meeting was held in the city of Fairburn by the city administrator, but the issue of student suspensions and what those students chose to do while not at school during the daytime was a concern of many.
“It was brought to my attention that there are a lot of kids out of school during the daytime,” she said. “What we have found is that a lot of kids have been suspended and don’t have access to the alternative campus on Campbellton Road.”
Parents have to provide transportation for their children to attend the campus and it was a stretch for many, said Vital.
“From Palmetto to Fairburn and other areas, they couldn’t get to the campus,” she said.
So, instead, the students are left to their own devices at home, alone.
“In my research, I went around to apartment complexes in the area and asked if the landlords had issues with students that are on the property in the daytime,” she said.
Many of the landlords, according to Vital, had issues with students destroying property. In those cases, either their parents or the police were called.
Statistics from the city of Fairburn confirmed Vital’s firsthand research.
“The city of Fairburn presented me with a juvenile police report,” she said. “What we found was that from January 2011 to December 2011, there were more than 126 youth that were either charged with burglary, theft or trespassing. There was also one gun incident.”
In order to combat what was becoming a growing issue, both Vital and the city administrator proposed Step by Step, that would act as a local alternative to those students who were suspended from their home schools.
Services include mental health comprehensive counseling sessions and assistance with helping students walk along the path to a college education.
Currently, there are eight students in the program.
“It is our hope that we can bring the community to help students and their families,” she said. “Schools can’t do it by themselves and parents can’t do it by themselves.”
Step by Step will host an open house on Feb. 26 at their office, 149 Broad St. in Fairburn.
Information: (770) 964-2244, extension 450.