Student at the end of his rope finds school that's making a diff - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Student at the end of his rope finds school that's making a difference

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PRATTVILLE, AL (WSFA) -

One year ago Dustin Smith found himself at the end of his rope. Smith says he was bullied at a school in Elmore County. Compounded by low self-esteem, Smith was beginning to wonder if he would ever earn a high school degree.

"I didn't like what was happening. I was verbally abused and picked on," said Smith.

One year later Dustin Smith is a week away from graduating from New Hope Academy near downtown Prattville. It's a very small private school with a total enrollment of 67 students in k-through 12. The school receives its funding primarily from the Noah Foundation. The foundation is named after Noah Hungerford. Noah was a 4-and-a-half month of baby boy who died in a daycare accident in 2000.

Smith credits people like Tina Halbert for instilling confidence and belief. Smith hates to think where he might be today without New Hope Academy

"I probably would have dropped out," said Smith.

"These children come here with learning challenges and sometimes there are emotional factors associated with that," said Halbert.

New Hope Academy is 5 years old.

"It's rewarding to come here and see the change take place," said Gaines Harrell, Director of Operations for New Hope Academy.

With graduation one week from now, Dustin Smith plans to sign up for the U.S. Army after he receives his high school diploma. Smith will never forget New Hope Academy, the school that gave hope and a new beginning.

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