HANNA CITY, Ill --Peoria County's alternative school at Wildlife Prairie State Park has nearly wrapped up its inaugural year. The program has seen its enrollment double since the start of the school year.
Unlike many traditional settings, all of the students at the Peoria Regional High School know each other. Senior Derrick Anderson spent three years at a traditional high school and will graduate next week. He says absenteeism was his big problem but in this smaller school it isn't.
"I really like being around them, they made me come out to be the best I am, set my goals accomplish some goals of mine too. It's a really good program," Anderson said.
About half of the 62 students attending the alternative high school in Hanna City live in Peoria and must travel farther than most for classes. Assistant Administrator Jim Bixby says students understand that attendance is a big requirement. He also says having the park is a big asset for teachers.
"You will see teachers just taking their class up walking out and holding class out of doors and the serenity that happens in that environment is really complimentary to the educational process," Bixby said.
Junior Adrian Carruthers says the persistence of teachers has made an improvement in his grades.
"They interact with the students they'll lecture and say here's your homework paper, it's like do you need help? No, I'm alright, two minutes later do you need help?" he said.
"I think it's a family network, people kind of encourage other people, one person enjoy it kind of that domino effect," said teacher Stacie Gianessi.
The administrators are working on setting up a foundation to generate money for the program.
Bixby says donations are already being accepted. He adds corporate contributions have included hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. With partnerships like that growing the future for these students looks bright.
The first graduation for Peoria Regional High School is May 31st at 7 pm.