Jade Clancy used to go to a local middle school, but a series of verbal confrontations resulted in misbehavior referrals.
The eighth grader's poor choices landed her at Fort Mill Academy. Students are referred to the academy when they have academic, attendance or behavor challenges, Principal Marty Conner said.
Clancy is one of 42 students at the academy. Of that, 11 are middle school students like Jade, Conner said.
"I had a reputation for being the loud girl," said Clancy, 13, who in 2007 moved from Brooklyn, N.Y. to Fort Mill, where she formerly attended classes at Gold Hill Middle School.
Sometimes, the teen would fuss with other students during stints in the school cafeteria and physical education classes. Then one day, the fussing went too far.
"I said a curse [word] and was suspended," she said.
Clancy vowed that suspension would be her first and last.
Then, last August, Clancy was referred to the academy because of behavor challenges. At the academy, Clancy was involved in two more verbal confrontations in the gym, Conner said.
About a month after arriving, Clancy's ability to keep her discipline in check was tested during another verbal confrontation. But that time, she made the right decision.
"I turned and walked away," she said. "That first situation helped me walk away. I thought, 'If I say that [curse], then I'm going to get suspended,' so I kept walking."
Conner and other school officials look at Clancy and see her potential.
"She's made tremendous gains because she's able to quickly access the consequences involved in her reacting negatively and then make the right choice," Connor said.
For her newfound knowledge and self-discipline -- a work in progress -- Clancy credits the academy.
"It changed me," she said of the academy. "The people who are here help me with my problems. They talk to me about it. I take that (the conversation) in and that helps me to change from who I was.
"I'm calm," she added. "I don't go off. Sometimes, I think I should, but I calm it down."
She learned from her mistakes.
"I haven't used profanity because I learned from my last two situations," she said. "It (using profanity) will get you in trouble."
And the academy has taught her about owning up to mistakes.
"It's my fault," she said about previous mistakes. "I should be mad at myself because it's something I did."
Six months into the program, school officials also note Clancy's growth.
"Jade has a sense of self-worth and value," Conner said. "Six months ago, that wasn't visible."
Now the teen thrives in the academy's nontraditional teaching environment.
"I get more one on one time with the teachers," she said. "They make sure I understand before they move on to another student."
The extra support was a good thing for Clancy, who said she made failing grades in social studies and science at her home school. But not anymore.
"I must say, I've never made a D or F here," Jade said with a smile. "Here, I'm making As, Bs and high level Cs. I'm proud of myself, that my grades have improved."
Clancy will be eligible to return to traditional school come August. But she's not planning to leave.
"I want to stay here because it fits me," she said. "This is better for me. The academy will keep me out of trouble."