Now that Magic City Acceptance Academy (MCAA) has begun its first year of learning, the founding staff is seeing what kinds of supports help its students thrive. To learn more, we spoke with Whitney Zeigler, the school’s year-round social worker, and registrar Marixa Coward. And yes, they are still taking new students. Keep reading for all the details.
Meet Whitney Zeigler, Social Worker at Magic City Acceptance Academy
Magic City Acceptance Academy aims to be a school where all types of students can thrive. To achieve this requires special supports, so we talked to the school’s social worker Whitney Zeigler to learn more about the unique therapy options that put this school at the head of the class.
- A dedicated, year-round school social worker in the building at all times—usually one or two social workers serve an entire district or county
- Year-round therapy groups—teachers can refer students to services
- Multiple mental health professionals on staff—services are not just limited to students with a 504 or an IEP
- Crisis team and crisis response team—because things happen
“If I see a student in the hallway, my main concern isn’t that the student’s not in class. My main priority is ‘are you okay? Do the adults that you’re supposed to be with know where you are right now so we can ease their concerns and worries?’”Whitney Zeigler
Easy access for students:
- Student referral program—students can request services directly through the school’s wellness suite
- Easy access for students—they can leave a message on the board or email for support; the mental health professionals make every effort to be very in tune with families and students, roaming the hallways and popping in to classes
After some initial reluctance to see a social worker, 20 or more students a day pop into Ziegler’s office.
Now that word’s getting out that nobody’s out to judge or change them, students love having access to someone they can speak to and bounce ideas off of. Many are now bringing their friends down because they notice them struggling and know they might need someone to talk to.
Ziegler stresses to students that everything they say to her is confidential, unless, of course, it has to do with harm to themselves, harm to another or intended harm.
Peer and curriculum support:
- Peer helpers program coordinated by the school counselor
- PATHS Program for social and emotional learning
“Our priority is making this a comfortable space for everyone. And in that we don’t exclude anyone. We let them know that their time is very valuable. And that it’s very important that they talk to someone and don’t just hold everything in.”Whitney Zeigler
Attention to different sensory needs:
- Wide open spaces where students can decompress
- A sensory room where students can go to recharge—particularly useful for autistic and sensory-avoidant students as well as students prone to anxiety or panic attacks
- Fidget toys students can keep with them all day long
“Students are able to have those wide open minds because they have a creative space to work in. And seeing so many people around them be so positive and being so helpful for them to succeed in any way that they deem possible motivates them to see that same thing within themselves.”Whitney Zeigler
Magic City Acceptance Academy’s doors are still open
After learning about all of these services, I wasn’t surprised to hear MCAA is still admitting an average of two students a day. To find out more, I talked with registrar Marixa Coward.
“The students we’re receiving now are pretty much students that are aware that we are a non-traditional school. Our motto is that we receive the students at the doors with open arms, regardless of what situation they have been in. We do all that we can to help the students feel safe in a brave space.”Marixa Coward
A sampling of where the new students have been coming from:
- Birmingham magnet schools such as Phillips Academy and W.J. Christian
- Catholic schools
- Clay Chalkville
- Leeds—there’s a new bus pickup stop there
- Private schools
- Vestavia—students and staff at MCAA are required to wear masks
Total enrollment continues to grow, with a limited number of seats available.
“Because it was the first year, people were not sure what was going to happen with this school—was this going to be a good choice? Now that they see the students are happy, they are trying everything they can to bring them over. They come and take tours; they come and ask questions.”Marixa Coward
Interested? Call 205-961-1320 first to ask for an appointment to tour the school with your child. If you love it, they can register your student that day and they can begin school the very next day.