By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – As an alternative high school, Asher School, part of the Southgate Community School District, offers an award-winning, welcoming environment with flexible scheduling for students from more than 20 local communities.
Asher School, 14101 Leroy, is home to a degree-granting high school, along with General Educational Development, English as a Second Language, Adult Basic Education, community education and leisure classes, and an early childhood learning center.
Director Leonard Samborski said it is an alternative to a traditional high school and its students attend for a variety of reasons.
“This is a place for students who had, for whatever reasons, difficulty completing at their current high school,” he said. “We provide them a different avenue.”
Samborski said that while it doesn’t have as many extracurricular activities as traditional high schools, it does have some, and it meets the state requirements. It has different class scheduling options, and it has a more mature atmosphere.
“Students who have medical issues that make it hard to be in a large, crowded school, we work with, and we have a virtual program,” he said. “You can take some of your classes at home via the virtual computer online program.”
Students who missed school due to health or families issues, who felt they were bullied, who had anxiety issues in crowds, and lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender students find a better environment at Asher, Samborski said.
Students find out about Asher by word-of-mouth, he said. The school has an application and screening process, and not every student is accepted.
“We don’t accept everybody who comes in the door,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not good for the rest of our students.
“What if a student had discipline problems at their previous school because they picked on students who were not like them, and I also let in people who were picked on at their school? That’s not a good fit.”
Samborski said a young man who met with him recently to enroll said a friend who graduated from Asher said the staff at the school would help him, other students wouldn’t bother him, he could be himself and students get along with others.
“There’s no fighting in the building, not one fight last year,” Samborski said. “We don’t have people picking on each other here. I think that is the culture, and I think we perpetuate that and the students accept that, and they are the ones that really make it happen.
“I think the students come here and they realize, ‘I don’t want anyone picking on me, and I’m not going to pick on anybody else, or bother anybody or bully anybody else.’ We do make clear to everybody that it is just not accepted here.”
Samborski said the students form a positive peer group, and if someone were to violate that aspect of the culture, the students would be the first ones to provide the feedback to correct it.
“Most of that takes care of itself,” he said. “Occasionally, I have to pull somebody aside and talk to a student, educate them that this is not acceptable. We try to tell it in a kind way, that they understand it. We call it ‘restorative justice.’
“We try to go back to their goals, why are they here, what were some of the things that prompted you to get here. You came here for these reasons but you’re doing the same type of things you left your other school for.”
Samborski said the school has students from many different backgrounds, and last year when they had a prom, he was proud that they were all having a good time together, with no cliques.
“We had people dressed elegantly, and other people dressed kind of funky and everybody in-between,” he said. “Everybody got along, dancing together, eating together, taking pictures together, being supportive of each other.”
Samborski said students who would be bullied at another school are accepted at Asher.
“They are allowed to be who they are and do what they need to do to graduate,” he said. “The students see that and they realize they are all here for the same reason. They want to graduate, and they find new friends here.”
For more information about Asher School, go to southgateschools.com/?pagelist=Asher.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])