Joplin alternative school supports teens in need

JOPLIN, Mo. – Gabe Dutton is 18, but his experiences make him feel much older.

“I’ve been on my own since 8th grade. I’ve been living with a friend, couch-bumming, something like that. After 8th grade, I’ve been actually in like a DYS system, so a juvenile system,” the Joplin Alternative School senior explained.

Gabe says he was fighting with his adoptive parents a lot before they kicked him out of the house. His grades began to slip and he fell behind, but he really wanted to turn things around, and that’s how he got involved with the ROI S. Wood campus and their staff.

“The goal is to make it a community that they feel like this is their home when everything else is spinning around them they have somewhere to come that’s very consistent. This is where people are and where they love to be,” said Elizabeth Foster, a case manager.

“You can tell they care on a deeper level than just their job,” Dutton emphasized.

Meeting Needs

Economic Security partners with the alternative school to do case management with at-risk youth and their families, pairing them with resources and supplies. Students get things like food and clothing, a place to do laundry and take showers. Foster helps them get jobs and find housing. That makes a big difference for teens like Gabe.

“Them being able to act as a strong support system for people who don’t have that, you know, that’s really good,” he said.

Needs here fluctuate on a daily basis, but there are some items that are normally in short supply.

“We always, always need hygiene products, especially feminine hygiene products, shampoos, conditioners. I try to keep the minis on hand, but like your full-size bottles, like if I get a child or a family a house, I don’t have the full size bottles of hygiene products to give out to the community,” said Foster.

The needs are always there, but Foster does her best to meet them. As for Gabe, he’s thankful for this school. It put him back on track to graduate as he works to support himself, get his own place, and pursue college.

“I just want people to know everybody who goes there hasn’t necessarily just messed up in high school and been dumb. Some of those people have a hard home situation. They’re actually struggling. Just give them a little bit of a break,” he said.

Foster says bicycles are always a need for students as their transportation is often limited.

If you’d like to help out with any of the needs at the Joplin Alternative School, call them at (417) 680-5123.

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