DANVILLE — Derrick Taylor is grateful for a Danville schools' alternative education program that is giving him a chance to recover some high school credits and graduate with his classmates.
He's also grateful that the alternative program moved out of the basement of the Jackson Building this year into the former Holy Family School building at 502 E. Main St., which has more classroom space, a gymnasium and a media center.
"We were pretty cramped before. This gives us a lot more room to learn," Taylor said Tuesday afternoon, as he and classmate Kendall Montgomery spread their laptops, books and backpacks out on a cluster of desks to work on a geometry lesson.
On Thursday, school staff and students plan to dedicate the school, renamed the Kenneth D. Bailey Academy, and pay tribute to the Danville High School alumnus and Medal of Honor recipient for whom it is named.
The community is invited to attend the dedication ceremony at 6 p.m. in the school gym.
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer will serve as the master of ceremonies, and Danville High School student Christian Cunningham will sing "The Star Spangled Banner." There also will be a full honor guard represented by the Maj. Kenneth D. Bailey Marine Corps League Detachment 824 and Commandant Tom Barrett.
Special guests include Maj. Bailey's niece, Sharon Pederson of Hillsboro, Ind., and other relatives.
The district bought the building from the Holy Family parish earlier this year so it could combine its high school and middle school alternative programs under one roof. The programs had been scattered at various locations in Danville and most recently were located at the Laura Lee Fellowship House and the Jackson Building, which houses the district's administrative offices.
Over the summer, the Catholic parish demolished the old two-story St. Patrick's School building located on the west end of the property. Then the district remodeled some rooms and made other improvements in time for the school to open in August.
"The kids are so excited to be in their new building and have a place of their own," Principal Tracy Cherry said, adding the academy opened with 93 students but has room for more.
"They're in an environment where they can have the same opportunities as other students," she continued. "It's gives them a greater sense of security and pride and value, and they feel more ownership in their school and their education."
Cherry said school officials named the academy after Bailey, who was inducted into Danville High School's Wall of Fame in 1991, to inspire students and serve as a role model.
In high school, Bailey excelled in football and swimming and was a member of the student council, booster club, D Association, boys' athletic association and glee club. He earned a degree in agriculture from the University of Illinois in 1935, and was a member of the Illini football team and participated in the ROTC program.
Bailey entered the U.S. Marine Corps as a second lieutenant after college and planned to have a military career. He was killed in September 1942 during the Battle of Guadalcanal, and posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his heroic conduct during action.
"He exemplified qualities like dedication, courage, leadership, good citizenship, excellence. Those are qualities we hope to bring out in our students," said teaching assistant Parker Sands, who helped students create a video presentation on Maj. Bailey that will be shown at the dedication ceremony.
Cherry said some students are getting a chance to serve as leaders for the first time through the academy's student advisory board.