JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS)—The word conquer is painted on the walls inside this building. It’s a daily message of hope and home to the non-profit ‘Rise Above’ — led by Neil Fernandes. 

“It truly is a remarkable thing and something that I think our community didn’t think was possible,” said Founder and Executive Director, for Rise Above, Neil Fernandes.

The Goal? To give kids who were suspended or expelled from school a second chance, and help them reach their full potential.

“Our goal really that first week is to walk as closely with that student as possible. That they feel as we get further and further down the road that they can open up more and more and more,” said Fernandes.

More than 100 students walk these halls and fill these classrooms each school year. In the more than 12,000 square feet of space they get everything from academic credit recovery, counseling, networking and support. Everything they need to be successful.

“Very often when kids get into a hole they can’t help but stop digging down. They don’t know how to start digging a ramp out.”

For Fernandes, it’s about picking up the shovel and digging with them. That’s because it’s personal mission for him. He can relate to what they’re going through. He’s been there before.

“I grew up one of these kids. I grew up in the youth system. I grew up very poor. I grew up from a very broken home.”

It’s perspective that’s helped him and his staff of teachers and volunteers bring change into the lives of so many kids.

Teachers like Sierra Flint say it’s about the lessons and relationships that are built here.

“I would say about 99 percent of the time if you don’t build relationships with these students you are not going to have any growth with them. That’s the key core of Rise Above,” said Classroom Facilitator, Sierra Flint.

Rise Above currently has an 80% success rate. It’s change that makes all the difference, both here and out in the community.

“It’s very gratifying. There’s nothing more satisfying. Think of your own kid you know what I mean? How much more to come alongside somebody who literally was at zero and now is on a rocket train to whatever they set their mind to,” said Fernandes.

The cost is completely free. For more information there is a link below.