Hollis Academy, first known as Wayne Halfway House, began as Lige Hollis’ vision in 1992. Lige had a vision of a place that would help change the lives of young men that had come from difficult circumstances – a place that would help these young men grow past their difficulties and become productive members of society. Originally just a 16-bed facility, Wayne Halfway House built on its original principles, adding staff and the capability to help even more youth until it became a 52-bed facility in 2002.
Jason Crews began a career in youth services much the same as Lige had – with a vision of helping young people overcome difficult circumstances. He envisioned helping young people turn into adults they and their loved ones could be proud of. Jason began his career as a residential case manager for the Department of Children’s Services in 2000. His work with DCS led to his working closely with Lige at Wayne Halfway House, and that working relationship turned into a deep and lasting friendship between two men who not only had many common interests, but had a common goal – helping troubled youth. Lige eventually asked Jason to help him establish a program that would not only help young men resolve behavioral, social, and mental health issues, but more importantly, help them permanently exit dependence on “The System.”
Having lost his own father at the age of 15, Jason is quick to acknowledge Lige’s influence in his life, which in turn has helped him to be a positive influence on the young men he works with on a daily basis. He says that Lige taught him a lot about being humble, and helped him to see that everything is not just black and white – there are many shades of grey in between.
After Lige’s retirement in 2005 due to a prolonged illness, Jason Crews became President and CEO of Wayne Halfway House. The facility was renamed Hollis Academy in 2015 in Lige’s honor. Lige passed away at the age of 69 on December 5, 2017.
In 2019, Hollis Academy expanded to include a facility in Nashville called Standing Tall Music City. The largest facility in the Hollis Academy family to date, Mountain View Youth Academy, opened in Dandridge, TN (near Knoxville) in 2020. Also opening in 2020 was Hollis Residential Treatment Center in Columbia, TN. Jackson Academy in Jackson, TN joined the family of facilities in October 2021.
C&B Linen was the first business that was actually co-owned by Lige Hollis and Jason Crews. In 2021, C&B Linen joined RaeKar Industries under the Hollis Academy business umbrella. Wayne Provision is one of the newest businesses in the Hollis Academy family, and facilitates foster care programs for the previously detained/incarcerated young men once they are released. “A lot of the progress made by these young men in our detention facilities can be completely lost when they are released,” said Crews. “By providing foster homes for them to enter when they are released, we are at least offering them more help with introducing them back into society.”
Crews said that his companies employ approximately 500 people at all the facilities combined. “A lot of these people have been with me for 15 or 20 years,” he said. “And I am only as good as the people around me.”
Crews explained how these young men arrive at the facilities, and what they do once they get there. He said that when they are arrested, they first go to a juvenile detention facility for up to 20 days. After the initial detention period, they are transferred to a facility such as Hollis Academy. The charges against the youth usually determine their facility placement, with less violent offenders usually being placed in Hollis Academy or a similar facility. Crews said that the Mountain View facility near Knoxville is where a lot of the youth end up who have more violent or higher level charges.
A day at Hollis Academy consists mostly of education. Hollis Academy has eight or nine teachers on staff at any given time, and the detainees are taught based on their assessed level upon arrival. Along with their daily schooling, the young men also have three meals, snacks, rest/quiet time, and different activities, such as swimming on Wednesday evenings. The schedule they are on is necessary for things to run smoothly, and to instill discipline in the young men as well.
As Jason Crews readily admits, things don’t always run smoothly at the facilities. The Mountain View Youth Academy was especially troubled, with the detainees literally setting the facility on fire in the months prior to Crews’ company taking over. “Are things easy at any of our facilities?” said Crews. “Absolutely not, it’s a challenge every day. But if we can just help a small percentage of these young people turn their lives around and achieve success, we are doing our jobs.”
“The main principle of our business model is that if you don’t care, you can’t work here,” Crews went on to say. “Each of our facilities has workers who must share the same core values and belief system – beliefs which are in turn expected of the young people detained in the facility.”
“Our ultimate goal is to work with these kids on both their education – which is of great importance at this time in their lives – and to work with who they really are. We teach them that whatever mistakes they have made in their past don’t define the person that they can be. They have their whole lives ahead of them to overcome their mistakes and become the person they are meant to be.”