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Maranathan Photo - Donna Dukes and Students in MA Library.jpg


The mission of Maranathan Academy is simple – to save the lives of critically at risk youth. Maranathan Academy is dedicated to, through the transformative power of education-

  • provide an educational oasis for individuals in desperate need of a second chance

  • provide academic, spiritual and emotional strength for critically at risk youth and their families

  • assist each graduate to become a productive, contributing member of society

Primary Goal

The primary goal of Maranathan Academy, is to break the cycle of  government dependency, that has plagued the families of critically at-risk youth for generations.

Critically at-risk students belong to a subcategory of the “at–risk” student classification. Their lives are fraught with challenges, e.g., nonexistent or extremely weak support systems, discouragement of academic achievement and family histories of incarceration and cyclical dependency on government assistance. Often written off as lost causes, these students tend to become U. S. Department of Justice statistics rather than success stories---unless they gain access to hope. 


Maranathan Academy is a nonprofit, private alternative school specializing in critically at–risk youth and adult students. Its primary goal is to break cyclical dependency on government assistance which plagues the critically at-risk populace. As the only private school in Birmingham and its surrounding cities, that works exclusively with critically at-risk youth and the only private school in Birmingham and its surrounding cities, that accepts students who have been expelled for weapon-related or violent offenses, Maranathan serves as a source of hope and is frequently a deciding factor in the lives of critically at-risk students and their families.


Maranathan enjoys a graduation rate of 85%.

53% enter college.

47% enter trade school or achieve military enlistment.

Yet, those who labor at Maranathan mourn the loss of the 15% who fail to complete the Academy’s course of studies. Only 3% of those lost are dismissed due to refusal to adhere to behavioral policies. The remaining 12% are withdrawn because they’re learning and their parents or guardians are unwilling to lose an additional slow learner stipend received from the government.


Founded in 1991, Maranathan Academy offers middle school, high school, and adult education. The Academy has graduated nearly 400 critically at-risk students and, due to wraparound services provided to students and their families, has impacted more than 2,00 lives. Maranathan Academy’s impact is inarguable and it's model replicable.

Donna Dukes - Founder & Executive Director

Headshot - Donna Dukes - Ivory.jpg

Donna Dukes, Founder and Executive Director of Maranathan Academy, was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She attended and graduated Valedictorian, with Suma Cum Laude honors from Miles College in 1991, and holds a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Harvard University. Donna founded Maranathan Academy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit alternative school and learning center, on September 3, 1991, to educate critically at-risk youth and adult students. It’s the goal? To break the cycle of dependency on government assistance, that has plagued the critically at-risk populace for generations. Over the last thirty-one years, Maranathan Academy has impacted over 2,000 lives and graduated nearly 400 students from Maranathan Academy.

Donna is a Telly Award-winning filmmaker as well as a highly sought-after speaker and presenter. Donna credits her success to being blessed with great parents who taught her the importance of a strong work ethic, academic excellence, and faith. 

In recognition of the tremendous impact of her work at Maranathan Academy, Donna was inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. International College of Ministers and Laity at Morehouse College; named a Woman to Watch by the Birmingham Business Journal; received the Brother Bryan Prayer Point Award from the Women’s Committee of 100 for Birmingham; and was named a Regional Community Leader by national jeweler Kendra Scott. Donna is a member of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, the Birmingham Nonprofit Consortium, Birmingham East Kiwanis Club, and the Women’s Committee of 100 for Birmingham and serves on the Board of Directors of the Women’s Committee of 100 for Birmingham. She works tirelessly to bring the plight of critically at-risk students to the attention of the public and private sectors, and to ensure that her students, embrace academic opportunities, discard victim mentalities, practice inclusion, accept personal responsibility for their actions, and thereby, become productive, contributing members of society.

Donna Dukes, Founder & Executive Director

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