Chamberlain Hunt Academy is an old school and has roots in Oakland College, which became Alcorn State after Oakland was sold to the state of Mississippi when it was unable to reopen after the Civil War.
The proceeds from the sale built Chamberlain Hunt Academy on the south end of Port Gibson. The school is owned by French Camp Academy today, but still operates as it always has, as an independently run military-type boarding school for young men.
I heard of Chamberlain Hunt when I was a kid because a couple of the real difficult cases in our High School back home got sent there.
But President Jack West is quick to point out that it is not a reform school.
"I'd like to disabuse people of that notion that this is where you ‘get sent' because you're bad," said West.
Seventh to twelfth graders, from Port Gibson as well as 18 states and a couple of foreign countries, make up the student body this year, and the come here for a variety of reasons.
Some have had difficult situations at home or in former schools. And many find the structured environment here helps them immensely. The personal touch elevates some of them to achieve way more than they would in a huge, traditional school back home.
"In the mornings we have study hall with all of our teachers there," said a student from Alabama. "Like my math teacher, she helps us go over what we may have missed in the lesson the day before."
"I came here not wanting to be here, not wanting to do anything, hating life. And now everything is changed. I feel better," said a student from New York.
What makes the difference? Well, the school is heavy on discipline and structure couched in Christian values. And it is these ideas that create a challenge for the students, and in coming to terms with all of that, oftentimes positive change happens.
"It's really that process of struggle that builds strength and makes the change,"observed West.
Young men leave here headed for college, now. And then on into careers that never would have been available to them had it not been for what the got here at this quiet little school in south west Mississippi.
So, has Chamberlain-Hunt made a difference? "It defiantly has, without a doubt,"said a student from Memphis.
Multiply that to the number of graduates the school has turned out in the 130-plus years Chamberlain Hunt has been educating young men, and that makes quite a difference.
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