Highfields Celebrates 50 Years Of Service In Mid-Michigan

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Before becoming a student at Ingham Academy three years ago, 18-year-old Tyler Fisher was headed down the wrong path.

"Once I got on probation, one thing led to another," he said. "And I got a couple of other crimes and I got locked up in a juvenile home. My only option of getting out was coming to Ingham Academy, but since I've been at Ingham Academy, I haven't done one thing wrong - nothing, no crimes."

Ingham Academy is one of the many programs created by Highfields, a non-profit agency designed to help struggling families and students like Fisher.

"So we provide the structure, and we work with the intermediate school district and the Ingham family court to help kids graduate from high school," explained Brian Philson, the president and CEO of Highfields.

For Fisher, Ingham Academy isn't just a place to go to class. It's a community that has changed his life.

"I would never make it without this school," said Fisher. "Really. Like I wouldn't get the support that I got, I wouldn't even be getting fed properly if I wasn't coming to this school so it's definitely, definitely helped me a lot."

Fisher expects to graduate in just a few months. His success, and the success of others like him, is why Ingham County Judge Robert Drake created Highfields 50 years ago.

"There were so many young people coming into court," said Judge Drake. "So it seemed really they were the most at-risk for a lifetime in and out of prison. And something had to be done, an in-depth program, and Highfields was put to work to do just that, and has done it in a remarkable way."

Highfields began as a residential program for troubled boys in Ingham County, but has evolved since then into more than 15 different programs to address family issues. The agency serves about 6,000 children and families each year in 11 counties across the state. From its family center in Lansing, to seven school-based programs in Ingham and Jackson counties, Highfields' early intervention programs address problems that stem from domestic violence, substance abuse, and other issues before they become severe.

In its 50 year history, Highfields has changed thousands of lives and helped kids that may have spent a lifetime in out of jail find success instead.

"Their lives are put on the right track and they're able to live, have dreams at schools they can fulfill," Judge Drake said.

Dreams Fisher is already planning to achieve. He hopes to go to Lansing Community College after graduation and work to become a mechanic.

"After that I plan on opening up my own shop," Fisher said. "So that's my dream, to own my own shop."

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