Between Nashville and Memphis is Carroll County, Tenn., which, according to Branch, "is a rural place, quietly troubled by the hollowing plagues of small-town America — unemployment, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy among them. The problems lurk in the shadows between landscaped brick homes and the bucolic countryside."
The Carroll County Juvenile Court operates Carroll Academy, a public school for troubled and at-risk teens. Students are sent there for all sorts of reasons, including behavioral issues and drug use. Branch is a sports writer for The Times, and his stories focus on the school's girls basketball team, which has lost more than 200 games in a row.
However, the stories are not about the basketball team. They're about life in a version of small-town America beset with economic problems that are seemingly overwhelming. Branch's stories are long, but they are worth your time. I can't help but wonder how many Alabama counties would benefit if their respective juvenile courts had the resources to open this type of school.
-- Phillip Tutor