The meaning of the word “family” is changing for many Americans. 5.7 million children in the United States today are being raised by their grandparents, often with no other parent in the house. The reasons for this increasingly high statistic range from parental incarceration rates to substance abuse, neglect and more.
Most of these grandparent-led families earn significantly below the national median income, and many live on incomes that fall below the poverty line. Whether due to economic issues or health issues related to the grandparent aging, the instability at home often disrupts a child’s education.
Eula Davis found herself in such a situation when she assumed guardianship of her great-grandson, Elijah Dabney, upon his birth. Now a middle-schooler, Elijah has always called Davis “mom.” He says she is his mom in every way that matters, having provided him with a happy and loving home from the day he was born. Throughout Elijah’s childhood, Davis constantly worried about food insecurity, her own failing health and the regular gang violence in their south Chicago neighborhood that prevented Elijah from playing outside.
Davis had no idea how much her life would change the day she learned about a unique education option. Glenwood Academy is a residential school serving good kids from challenging circumstances who are impacted by poverty, violence, inadequate educational systems or lack of support. Students live on campus from Sunday-Friday each week, returning to their families every weekend. Davis was further impressed by Glenwood’s proven success: since 2011, 100% of graduating students have gone on to attend a 2 or 4-year college or join the military following high school graduation.
Residential schools enable students to attend classes and participate in extracurricular activities in an open yet safe environment. At Glenwood Academy, students live in on-campus cottages with house parents who look after them and model a healthy family environment. Students receive the structure and safety they need to thrive that they might not receive otherwise. For strained guardians and students in need, such residential schools provide unparalleled comfort and peace of mind.
Elijah’s success at Glenwood Academy, as well as the success of his peers, begs a question about whether residential schools could be a unique solution for not only grandparents raising their grandkids, but for our country’s educational achievement gap overall. To hear Elijah say “Glenwood saved my life” is certainly a compelling argument.