Gem State Helps Teen Grow, Change and Become

About four years ago, Jayce Crandall’s world changed. The house he, his three brothers and parents lived in burned to the ground. For some time there had been domestic difficulties and, for his mother, the house-burning was the last straw. The family separated. Crandall’s three brothers went with dad, while Crandall moved to Boise with his mother.

Crandall’s uncle and aunt watched him as he grew and matured. “He has so much potential,” they often said. Then they had an idea, “Why not invite Jayce to come live with us and go to Gem State Academy?”

When they first invited him, Crandall thought, “Yeah, I think I’d like to try out another school.” His first day at Gem State, he noted the uncrowded hallways, personable teachers and peaceful environment.

Many freshmen come to Gem State with less-than-optimal reading skills, and Crandall was among them. Because reading is vital to academic success, English teacher Shelley-jeane Soulé requires independent reading in her freshman class each Friday. Students choose their own reading material and spend the entire class period with their noses in books.

But Crandall didn’t like reading. He didn’t have a book and didn’t look for one. The first Friday his grade was docked because he didn’t read in class.

His aunt found out and asked someone to recommend an intriguing book that might encourage Crandall to read. When Soulé saw the four-inch-thick volume, she thought, “This will be way too overwhelming!” But the next Friday, Crandall was mesmerized the entire class period—and received full credit. He is now well on his way through his fourth book.

“The teachers here want you to succeed," Crandall said. "When I fell behind, Mrs. Soulé gave me an extra credit project. I felt like I was given a second chance, and I didn’t want to disappoint her.”

One of Jayce’s work supervisors, “Mom” (Alice Cantrell in the cafeteria), says, “Jayce comes to work 10 minutes early every day. While some kids goof off when the supervisor isn’t looking, Jayce is steady and reliable. One day he came to work but didn’t have his usual gusto....Jayce was determined not to let a little sickness interfere with his commitment!”

"We’ve done so many fun things," said Crandall. "I don’t know why some kids don’t like it here.”

In four short months, Crandall learned better study habits, developed a positive work ethic and made new friends. The previously withdrawn teen has become more self-assured, better able to express his convictions and shows leadership promise.

April 01, 2004 / Idaho Conference