Dr. Annise Mabry’s children were the driving forces behind her development of Tiers Free Academy Homeschool Cooperative. As an LGBTQ-identifying individual, her daughter, Ally, was the victim of severe bullying in school. She was also diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a complex mental condition that includes schizophrenia and mood disorder symptoms.
“She had been pushing me for a long time to homeschool her,” Mabry said. “Everything fell apart in middle school.” Ally was bullied to such a degree that she attempted suicide multiple times. “I spent a year trying to keep her alive,” Mabry said. “Around the same time, I was diagnosed with a genetic progressive muscle disease, and I was a new single parent.”
“She and her organization are opening doors for people who didn’t think that they had a future. She’s using education to help give hope for a better life. I’m blessed to call her a friend.”Jessica Hembree, director of the Newton County Homeschool Co-op
Mabry appeared on an Oprah Network show called “Trouble Next Door” that showcased families with various struggles and encouraged neighbors to help one another out. Through the show, Ally was awarded a scholarship to a private school. The family hoped it would be a good fit for her. Unfortunately, it was not, and Mabry was left trying to figure out the next best step for her children. Her younger son, Niles, had been diagnosed with autism, and the public school he attended failed to deliver on its promise that he would receive “tiers of intervention.” Mabry admits she felt pigeonholed into a school system not designed for her children. As she considered other private school and homeschool cooperatives, all fell short of Mabry’s ideals.
“That’s when I started deep diving into homeschool,” she said. “‘Am I doing the right thing,’ I wondered? But I knew that whatever I gave them was better than what they were getting.”
The first step was to try to buy a certain curriculum, but the supplier could only sell it to schools and nonprofits. As a result, Mabry contacted her lawyer, and the Dr. Annise Mabry Foundation was born. That allowed Mabry to purchase a curriculum license for her son and give the other 24 licenses to other homeschooling families. She began writing corporate grants to fund homeschooling curriculum for families in need and created a blueprint for parents to homeschool their children through high school.
Most local homeschooling families are familiar with Mabry and her foundation. Jessica Hembree, director of the Newton County Homeschool Co-op, met her through a mutual friend.
“Years later, I’m so glad to have met Dr. Mabry. She’s an inspiration,” Hembree said. “She and her organization are opening doors for people who didn’t think that they had a future. She’s using education to help give hope for a better life. I’m blessed to call her a friend.”
Tiers Free Academy remains the state’s only trauma-informed nonprofit alternative high school diploma program. It is open to learners from difficult backgrounds, including sex trafficking survivors, homeless LBGTQ youth and high school dropouts. “We believe that all parents deserve to see their children graduate,” Mabry said. To date, Tiers Free Academy has helped 523 parents and guardians issue high school diplomas.