AUBURN — In a recent careers class David Jacobs-Pratt was teaching at Franklin Alternative School, the day’s lesson was attitudes in the workplace.

Wearing a ponytail, a shirt and tie, and a ready smile, Jacobs-Pratt asked his students why it’s important to be aware of complaining on the job.

Because no one wants to work with someone who complains all day, students answered.

“Yes,” Jacobs-Pratt said.

“If you’re unhappy, you just can’t walk off the job,” the teacher said. “In work you’ve got to do, or you’re going to lose your job.”

He asked if it’s easier to find a job when you have a job or are unemployed.

“When you have a job,” his students answered.

Right, Jacobs-Pratt said. “That means you’re employable right there.”

Franklin Alternative School, which has 68 students in grades seven to 12, is among the oldest alternative education programs around. The credit recovery program takes students who didn’t make it in traditional school settings and gives them the individual support they need to feel safe and experience success.

Jacobs-Pratt, 59, says he understands his students, some of whom are homeless, come to school hungry or from tough backgrounds. “They are kids who have little trust when it comes to adults. At Franklin my kids can realize success.”

He was one of those kids.

When he was at Edward Little High School, “I hated school,” he said. He wondered what world history or science had to do with him. He missed a lot of school, but did graduate.

Like some of his students, his family life was bad. “It was a dangerous household,” Jacobs-Pratt said.

After high school, he joined the Navy, got a college education, a good job, and eventually returned to Auburn to teach.

In May, he was the state winner of the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award.

As a veteran and history teacher, he engaged his students in citizenship projects such as placing flags at graves on Memorial Day. That was noticed by the VFW, he said.

In class, he asked his students to explain what’s expected of them at Franklin.

“Respect, accountability, responsibility,” student Devin Jeselskis said.

Nate Krasny, 16, of Oxford has been attending Franklin for several months. “Oxford wasn’t working for me,” he said. “I was insufficient in credits really bad.”

He met with Franklin Principal Russ Barlow and talked about his future, whether Franklin would be a good fit. “I came here. I like it. It’s family,” Krasny said.

After his education he wants to pilot planes.

Kyle Cyr, 18, a senior, has been at Franklin for several years. He came from Lewiston High School.

He didn’t like the big school; he felt like a number. “I was failing my classes,” he said.

Franklin was a game-changer, Cyr said. “It showed you what school could be like. Here, everyone is loving toward each other. Everyone’s like your friend.”

After school he hopes to work in music and film. Through Franklin he did an internship with a local production studio.

Cyr is on track to graduate in June. Without Franklin, “I probably would have dropped out.”

Not every Franklin student graduates, but a lot do, Principal Barlow said.

He tracks his graduates.

In 2012, 22 students graduated. Three months later 14 were working, one was in school, four unemployed and two he couldn’t find. In 2013, nine graduated. Three months later seven were working, two were in school. “We had 100 percent in school or working.”

In 2014, 13 of his graduates, or 88 percent, were working or in school. In 2015, three months after graduation his eight graduates were all working or in school. “We’re doing something right,” Barlow said.

Last year “was a rough year,” he said. Of the seven who graduated in June, five out of seven are working or in school.

“When people ask ‘What do you do all day?’” Barlow answers that his faculty works to produce “responsible, informed citizens who are taxpayers. We care.”

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