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2022 Q1 Pathways Quarterly Magazine

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PATHWAYS<br />

Acceleration Academies<br />

First Quarter | <strong>2022</strong>


Offering a flexible,<br />

personalized path to<br />

success in high school<br />

and life beyond.<br />

You can graduate.<br />

We can help.


15 Locations in Six States<br />

Across the U.S.<br />

| FLORIDA<br />

Escambia County<br />

» North Pensacola<br />

» Northwest Pensacola<br />

Miami-Dade County<br />

» Homestead<br />

» Miami<br />

St. Lucie County<br />

» Port St. Lucie<br />

» Fort Pierce<br />

Sarasota County<br />

» North Sarasota<br />

» South Sarasota<br />

| NEVADA<br />

Clark County<br />

» North Las Vegas<br />

» East Las Vegas<br />

» Southeast Las Vegas<br />

| SOUTH CAROLINA<br />

» North Charleston<br />

| WASHINGTON<br />

» Spanaway<br />

| TEXAS<br />

» Odessa<br />

| KANSAS<br />

» Wichita<br />

...with more opening soon<br />

in Florida and Georgia!


network by the numbers<br />

Our Graduation Candidates come from all backgrounds and<br />

experiences. They include learners who struggle in a traditional school<br />

setting, need additional one-on-one support or work jobs that don’t fit with<br />

a traditional school day. Some are young parents; new Americans learning<br />

English; or students who faced bullying, racism or social anxiety in larger<br />

schools. Some are managing medical conditions; others want to accelerate<br />

their studies, graduate early and move on to college, trade school, the<br />

military or professional sports careers. Whatever your circumstances,<br />

Acceleration Academies is here to help you #OwnYourSuccess.<br />

AT<br />

15<br />

ACADEMIES<br />

ACROSS<br />

THE UNITED STATES<br />

MORE THAN<br />

2800<br />

GRADUATION<br />

CANDIDATES<br />

ENROLLED<br />

CELEBRATING<br />

1500+<br />

GRADUATES<br />

SINCE 2014


Contents<br />

6<br />

6<br />

7<br />

8<br />

10<br />

11<br />

13<br />

Using a Graduation Persistence<br />

Index to map student success<br />

New Ector County Director helps<br />

learners realize their dreams<br />

Bethel grad sets example of<br />

determination for his children<br />

Cooking school-bound Lowcountry<br />

grad: “I didn’t feel lost anymore”<br />

Miami graduation candidate rises<br />

above his past<br />

Clark County GC has flexibility to<br />

succeed on his schedule<br />

Pioneering Wichita GC: “One of the<br />

most determined people”<br />

14<br />

15<br />

16<br />

18<br />

22<br />

Sarasota alum thanks<br />

academy team for “putting<br />

me back together”<br />

Escambia County student<br />

gets back on track<br />

St. Lucie grads celebrate<br />

their futures<br />

LGBTQ+ Community GC<br />

featured in Boeing video<br />

on aerospace careers and<br />

workplace diversity<br />

Class Notes: News from all<br />

academies<br />

PATHWAYS MAGAZINE<br />

© April <strong>2022</strong><br />

EDITOR & DESIGNER<br />

Lisa Meckley<br />

WRITER<br />

Jeffrey Good<br />

PHOTOGRAPHERS<br />

Matt Baide<br />

Sarah Campbell<br />

Jeffrey Good<br />

Annie Shaw<br />

Diana Solis<br />

Rochelle Strack<br />

Andrew Whittaker


A Yardstick for Student Persistence<br />

Educators know there is more to student success than coming to class,<br />

doing homework and taking tests. More complex factors, including the<br />

scars of trauma and the power of resilience, impact whether a young<br />

learner persists through challenges or falls prey to them.<br />

What if educators could start with a reliable baseline of such insights,<br />

using it to determine where students have solid skills and where they<br />

need tailored support? Such a resource is in development at Acceleration<br />

Academies. We call it the Graduation Persistence Index, or GPI.<br />

Wendy DuCassé is Model<br />

Fidelity Coach for Social<br />

and Emotional Learning.<br />

The GPI asks each student to assess their levels of engagement, learning,<br />

and persistence. Specifically, we want to know how they feel about<br />

their motivation and ability to connect with both academic content and<br />

those who offer the content (engagement and learning) — as well as<br />

their motivation to keep going when life or school becomes challenging<br />

(persistence).<br />

The assessment tool includes a series of statements like “I don’t quit a task<br />

before it’s finished” and “There are people who care about what happens<br />

to me.” Drawing on their answers and our own observations, we can better<br />

provide the support our graduation candidates need to reach their goals<br />

of a high school diploma and a successful journey to higher education, the<br />

workplace and their lives as family and community leaders.<br />

ACCELERATION ACADEMIES OF ECTOR COUNTY<br />

Ector County Academy Director Virginia Hunt<br />

Helps Learners Realize Their Dreams<br />

Growing up in South Texas as the eldest daughter in a Mexican<br />

immigrant family, Virginia Hunt learned how to work hard for her goals<br />

— and to persevere even if success didn’t come the first time around.<br />

“You make that commitment to do something, and you do it,” says<br />

Virginia, a 20-year educator, mother of two and Director of the new<br />

Acceleration Academies of Ector County in Odessa, Texas. “You don’t<br />

stop because it didn’t work out the first time.”<br />

“Young people have dreams and goals. They’ll be coming to us knowing<br />

that education is important to achieve these goals — but right now,<br />

school is only one part of their lives,” says Virginia. “That’s where we<br />

come in, to give them a different and personalized educational option that<br />

supports accomplishing their goals within the life that they have.”<br />

6 <strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong>


VaShon Evans-Barnwell:<br />

Setting an Example<br />

BETHEL ACCELERATION ACADEMIES<br />

For 4 years, VaShon Evans-<br />

Barnwell showed up at high<br />

school, making an appearance<br />

and going through the motions<br />

— but not much more. When it<br />

came time to join his classmates<br />

at graduation in 2019, he didn’t<br />

have enough credits to graduate.<br />

“I didn’t have the drive to finish.<br />

I showed up, I was there, but I<br />

didn’t do anything.”<br />

VaShon had become the father<br />

of a baby girl, Jaylynn, in his<br />

junior year. After dropping out,<br />

he got a job loading freight at a<br />

warehouse, improving his hourly<br />

wage from $12.50 to $15 an hour.<br />

For a while, he thought, “I’m<br />

good.” But then he suffered a<br />

back injury and broke his hand.<br />

“My body was breaking down. It<br />

was like if I break another bone,<br />

I’m out of work and then what am<br />

I going to do?” He started looking<br />

for other jobs, ones that might<br />

allow him to use his brain instead<br />

of just his brawn. But again and<br />

again, he learned those doors<br />

wouldn’t open without a high<br />

school diploma.<br />

“It was definitely the<br />

lack of a diploma that<br />

was holding me back.”<br />

Then he learned about Bethel<br />

Acceleration Academies,<br />

where flexible scheduling and a<br />

personalized path to a diploma<br />

offered a second chance. He<br />

decided to grab it. And while<br />

teachers at his old school might<br />

have allowed him to slack off, he<br />

soon learned that the coaches at<br />

BAA were just the opposite. “They<br />

were pushing, man, hitting me up<br />

every day,” he says. And when he’d<br />

lose sight of his goal, they would<br />

remind him. “ ‘Hey, your diploma.<br />

Remember.’ ”<br />

That got his attention — and he<br />

recently celebrated the diploma he<br />

had worked so hard to earn. He’s<br />

making plans to build a career<br />

in marketing, engineering or<br />

accounting. He’s got another baby<br />

on the way and hopes his example<br />

of pushing through adversity to earn<br />

his diploma will set a good example<br />

for his children. “I’ve got to do it<br />

for them,” he says, “make sure they<br />

have a good role model.”<br />

“<br />

“I’ve got to do it for<br />

[my kids],” he says,<br />

“make sure they have<br />

a good role model.”<br />

VaSHON | Future College Student<br />

<strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong> 7


LOWCOUNTRY ACCELERATION ACADEMY<br />

Carolina Dominguez Lopez<br />

‘I Didn’t Feel Lost Anymore’<br />

On graduation day, Carolina<br />

Dominguez Lopez was shining.<br />

Donning a black cap and gown with her<br />

classmates, Carolina danced around the<br />

room, struck comical poses and threw her<br />

head back in laughter.<br />

Her joy stood in stark contrast to<br />

the despair she felt less than a<br />

year before.<br />

At her old school on James Island, she felt<br />

overwhelmed by the crowded hallways, toxic<br />

social dynamic and one-size-fits-all approach<br />

to learning. “I remember getting there on<br />

the bus and I would start shaking,” she says.<br />

“I just felt like I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t<br />

supposed to be there.”<br />

Desperate for a different path,<br />

Carolina found her way to Lowcountry<br />

Acceleration Academy.<br />

There she found a calm, studious and supportive<br />

learning community. “When I walked<br />

into my other school, I always felt like I had<br />

Carolina has already<br />

been accepted into<br />

the prestigious Le<br />

Cordon Bleu cooking<br />

school and she<br />

dreams of opening a<br />

comfortable cafe.<br />

to watch what I was doing, what I was saying,<br />

how I looked,” she says “The students here are<br />

really easy to talk to. There isn’t a hostile environment<br />

like you have in regular school, where<br />

everyone has their little groups.”<br />

The educators at LAA nurture a positive<br />

environment, she says, always<br />

making themselves available to help<br />

learners navigate not only academic<br />

challenges, but also emotional ones.<br />

She had to miss a few weeks of school in the fall<br />

due to a deep depression that left Carolina unsure<br />

she wanted to go on. When she came back to<br />

campus, life coach Jack Caulder, English coach<br />

Bria Burke-Koskela and graduation candidate<br />

advocate Janell Reyes surrounded her with care.<br />

“I was instantly happy. I didn’t feel lost anymore.”<br />

At graduation, she was joined by her brothers and<br />

parents, who immigrated from Mexico more than<br />

two decades ago to create more opportunities<br />

for their children. “It’s a very important day for<br />

us and for her,” her father, Alonzo, said at graduation.<br />

“This is an opportunity. Whatever she’s<br />

going to do, she’s going to be prepared.”<br />

Proudly holding her diploma, Carolina<br />

said she would not have reached<br />

this point if she hadn’t switched<br />

schools.<br />

“Lowcountry Acceleration Academy is really the<br />

reason that I’m able to be here now,” she says.<br />

“They helped me focus on my future.”


“I was instantly<br />

happy. I didn’t feel<br />

lost anymore.”<br />

CAROLINA | Aspiring Chef


ST. LUCIE ACCELERATION ACADEMIES<br />

Maura Paredes:<br />

Trying a New School and Finding New Hope<br />

At her old school, Maura Paredes feared<br />

asking for help and found herself losing<br />

hope. After transferring to St. Lucie Acceleration<br />

Academies, Maura found educators<br />

like Amine Brown, who taught science<br />

not just from a text but through field<br />

study at a botanical garden, and Emerald<br />

Jamison, who became her “school mom<br />

and best friend.”<br />

With their support, she powered through<br />

her coursework to graduate in January.<br />

“At a point I was like, ‘I’m going to get<br />

my GED,’ but they talked me out of it,”<br />

she says. “The people here care.”<br />

MIAMI-DADE ACCELERATION ACADEMIES<br />

Franc Owens has a lot<br />

of ground to make up.<br />

At 16, he committed a robbery and<br />

spent 20 months in a juvenile center.<br />

He emerged determined to turn his life<br />

around — and is doing that at Miami-<br />

Dade Acceleration Academies.<br />

“My head’s on straight now,” he says.<br />

Career and life coach Deborah<br />

Ginsberg praises Franc’s commitment.<br />

“He’s come a really, really long way in<br />

his short time here.”<br />

Now 20, Franc is not only excelling<br />

at his studies but also holding down a<br />

full-time job and being a dad. He plans<br />

to become a police officer, and to set<br />

an example for his baby daughter,<br />

Faith.<br />

“Try to learn from your mistakes,”<br />

he will tell her. “Don’t be a follower.<br />

Have your own mind.”<br />

10 <strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong><br />

FRANC OWENS | Future Police Officer


CLARK COUNTY ACCELERATION ACADEMIES<br />

Saalaar said that CCAA educators<br />

— who are called coaches because<br />

of their motivational approach —<br />

lift him up. “All the coaches, they’re<br />

really helpful. Any questions I have,<br />

they answer right away.”<br />

“<br />

“Try to learn from your<br />

mistakes,” he will tell<br />

[his daughter]. “Don’t<br />

be a follower. Have<br />

your own mind.”<br />

Saalaar Saeedy:<br />

‘You Set Your Own Pace’<br />

Saalaar Saeedy loves computers and dreams of<br />

working for Google or Amazon. But not long ago,<br />

that hope seemed little but a distant dream.<br />

“I dropped out of high school,” he says. “I really<br />

didn’t see any point.”<br />

Saalaar has lived in Dubai, Iran and Las Vegas.<br />

When he reached high school, he had trouble<br />

pushing himself to engage fully in his coursework<br />

and realize his potential. When the Covid pandemic<br />

closed schools in 2020, his lack of motivation<br />

turned to stagnation.<br />

After dropping out, he got a job working at the<br />

Target department store and began thinking about<br />

moving up into a supervisory role. But he learned<br />

that to do so, he would need a high school diploma<br />

and, beyond that, a bachelor’s degree.<br />

“Every job I want needs a bachelor’s degree,” he<br />

says.<br />

Saalaar found out about Clark County Acceleration<br />

Academies, which offer a flexible, personalized path<br />

to graduation with ample one-on-one support<br />

for academic and personal challenges. He was<br />

delighted to hear that he could continue working<br />

during the day, and focus on his studies at night.<br />

“You set your own pace,” he says. “I study better<br />

at nighttime, and regular schools don’t operate at<br />

nighttime.”<br />

He was closing in on his 21st birthday, and he<br />

realized time was short to earn a diploma rather<br />

than settle for a GED. “When they told me the<br />

deadline was 21 years old, that’s when I started<br />

pushing.<br />

Saalaar said that CCAA educators — who are called<br />

coaches because of their motivational approach —<br />

lift him up. “All the coaches, they’re really helpful.<br />

Any questions I have, they answer right away.”<br />

“Acceleration Academies pushes people to study,”<br />

he says. “It’s very motivational.”


ST. LUCIE ACCELERATION ACADEMIES<br />

Antony Spence:<br />

Finding Success After the Pandemic<br />

For Antony Spence, the Covid<br />

pandemic couldn’t have come<br />

at a worse time. He was already<br />

losing ground in high school,<br />

falling behind in his studies and<br />

feeling socially ill at ease.<br />

When schools closed and he<br />

found himself cooped up at<br />

home, his spirits sagged even<br />

further. He dropped out. “I was<br />

just at such a hopeless point,”<br />

says Antony, 19. “I didn’t care<br />

about my education. I felt bored<br />

all the time, didn’t know what I<br />

would do with my life. I just felt<br />

so incomplete — and the pandemic<br />

made me feel that even<br />

more.”<br />

After leaving behind a traditional<br />

in-person high school<br />

and an all-virtual academy,<br />

Antony found his way to St.<br />

Lucie Acceleration Academies.<br />

The blend of in-person support<br />

and a flexible, onecourse-at-a-time<br />

online curriculum<br />

lit a fire under his<br />

high school journey.<br />

“Finally, I was excited to be at<br />

school again,” says Antony. “I<br />

decided to come back and give<br />

myself another chance — and<br />

here I am about to graduate.”<br />

He’s planning to go to college,<br />

perhaps to study video game<br />

design. As he wraps up his<br />

journey at SLAA, he says he’s<br />

grateful for the opportunity he<br />

found there.<br />

“Acceleration Academy’s way of<br />

teaching was definitely helpful<br />

for me,” he says. “My favorite<br />

part is that you’re on your own<br />

pace.”<br />

“<br />

“Acceleration Academy’s<br />

way of teaching was<br />

definitely helpful for<br />

me,” he says. “My<br />

favorite part is that<br />

you’re on your own<br />

pace.”<br />

12 <strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong><br />

ANTONY | Future Video Game Designer


WICHITA ACCELERATION ACADEMIES<br />

After Years of Instability,<br />

Lamaria King Finds a Learning Home<br />

Most high school students are lucky enough to wake<br />

up in their own bed, eat a healthy breakfast and go to<br />

school without having to worry about where they’ll<br />

return to do their homework. Not Lamaria King.<br />

Since her early teens, Lamaria<br />

has lacked a stable<br />

home, instead shuttling<br />

between the homes of relatives.<br />

Moving through<br />

a succession of high<br />

schools, she found it impossible<br />

to stay focused<br />

and productive.<br />

She despaired that she<br />

would have to drop out.<br />

Then she found out about<br />

the new Wichita Acceleration<br />

Academies, which<br />

works in partnership with<br />

the public school district to provide a flexible, personalized<br />

path to graduation.<br />

In traditional high school, with its crowded classrooms<br />

and busy teachers, it was hard to get the help<br />

she needed. With the one-on-one support provided at the<br />

academy, she says, “any time I need help, I get it.”<br />

Lamaria, 19, missed the chance to graduate with her cohort<br />

in 2021. But she’s hit her stride at WAA, coming in<br />

every day after she finishes her<br />

overnight shift loading trucks<br />

at FedEx. “After I go to work, I<br />

come right in here.”<br />

Rochelle Strack, Lamaria’s<br />

graduation candidate advocate,<br />

says the young woman<br />

holds herself to a high standard.<br />

“She’s one of the most determined<br />

people I’ve ever seen,”<br />

she says. “No matter what she<br />

encounters, she does not give<br />

up.”<br />

Any question Lamaria may<br />

have had about persevering vanished when her daughter,<br />

Da’maria, arrived last year. She realized she needed<br />

to earn her diploma and lay the groundwork for a career<br />

and the stability her baby girl needs to thrive. “Now I<br />

need to finish school.”<br />

Did you know...<br />

Acceleration Academies<br />

is a tuition-free, nationally<br />

accredited program!<br />

<strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong> 13


SARASOTA ACCELERATION ACADEMIES<br />

Sarasota Grad Myra Kirce:<br />

“They Put Me Back Together”<br />

These days, 2020 Sarasota Acceleration Academies grad<br />

Myra Kirce works three jobs: home health aide, brain<br />

trauma caregiver and certified nursing assistant trainee<br />

at a rehab center. “I’ve always known that I like to help<br />

people.”<br />

It wasn’t so long ago that Myra was the one needing help.<br />

In the final stretch of her senior year at her old school,<br />

family turmoil left her homeless and she lost hope. “I<br />

didn’t have any place to stay. I was dirty and I just didn’t<br />

want to go to school,” she says. “I gave up.”<br />

MYRA KIRCE | SAA Alumnae<br />

But then a friend told her about SAA, where a team of<br />

educators welcomed her like family. “Once I saw how invested<br />

they were in picking me up, it just made me want<br />

to do better.”<br />

Instead of long rows of desks and crowded classrooms,<br />

the academy offered an open, airy learning space with<br />

What is a GCA?<br />

At Acceleration Academies, students<br />

are called “graduation candidates” to<br />

remind them of why they’re working so<br />

hard. Nobody works harder to support<br />

them than their graduation candidate<br />

advocates (GCAs), who help and encourage<br />

them stay on track with their<br />

studies and overcome personal barriers<br />

to success.<br />

comfortable chairs. The atmosphere was relaxed but<br />

studious.<br />

Most important, though, was the deeply personalized<br />

attention. Frank Cruz, the warm and wise-cracking<br />

graduation candidate advocate (GCA) and Fred<br />

Thomas, the towering but gentle social studies coach,<br />

supplied academic guidance and tough love when she<br />

needed it.<br />

Academy Director and life coach Monetta Rustin reminded<br />

her again and again of her worth. “She really<br />

boosted my confidence in myself to finish.”<br />

Recently, Myra stopped by for help in applying for the<br />

scholarship she will use to pursue her bachelor’s degree<br />

in nursing. While she’s long since graduated, she<br />

says, “They’re here for the long run.”<br />

So is she; the 21-year-old stops by to offer words of<br />

advice for graduation candidates who might be struggling<br />

— and words of gratitude for their coaches. “I<br />

had given up on myself,” she says, wiping a tear from<br />

her eyes. “They put me back together.”<br />

14 <strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong>


ESCAMBIA COUNTY ACCELERATION ACADEMIES<br />

Josiah Gadia gets back on track<br />

with dreams of a future in video game and graphic design<br />

Josiah Gadia was in his final semester of high school when the pressures of an unstable home life,<br />

the need to hold down a job, and the challenges of schoolwork became too much to bear.<br />

“I was really close to being finished,” Josiah says. “I just couldn’t keep everything together.”<br />

After dropping out, Josiah went from job to job. He worked at a cocktail lounge, Circle K<br />

convenience store, Waffle House — even a Chuck E. Cheese family pizza restaurant. “I got paid<br />

to put on a giant Chuck E Cheese costume and dance for a bunch of little kids,” he says, shaking<br />

his head with a rueful laugh. “I wanted to so something more. I can’t do what I want without an<br />

education.”<br />

When he found out about Escambia County Acceleration Academies,<br />

Josiah saw it as “a second chance to get my education and finally get<br />

my life back together.”<br />

His focus wavered when he first began, but he said that educators including Academy Director<br />

Maria Jacobs and graduation candidate advocate Cordivido Grice provided loving but firm<br />

encouragement. Life coach Amber Fernbach also helped, by helping him sort through personal<br />

challenges — including anxiety, depression and family issues — that sometimes get in the way.<br />

He’s clear about his dreams. He loves to play music, having picked up a guitar at 16 and teaming<br />

up with a friend to write songs that have more than 100,000 plays on Spotify. In addition to<br />

building his musical career, Josiah would like to study video game and graphic design.<br />

His grandfather retired from the U.S. Navy, which will provide a scholarship to help him through<br />

college once he earns his diploma, he says. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but once<br />

Acceleration Academies was introduced to me, it just clicked.”<br />

“<br />

“My vision for Escambia County<br />

is that we will help build a<br />

generation of future leaders who<br />

will give back to their community.”<br />

MARIA JACOBS | Director, ECAA<br />

<strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong> 15


ST. LUCIE ACCELERATION ACADEMIES<br />

16 <strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong>


IN JANUARY 2021, young<br />

men and women who<br />

had pushed through all<br />

manner of adversity strode<br />

across the stage and<br />

claimed their diplomas<br />

from St. Lucie Acceleration<br />

Academies as family,<br />

friends and educators<br />

cheered them on.<br />

“In St. Lucie, our graduation<br />

candidates demonstrate resilience<br />

every day by committing to their<br />

education and their future,” says<br />

Academy Director Paige Latham.<br />

“Every time they engage in their<br />

course, work with a content coach,<br />

or review their personal learning<br />

plan with the career/life coach, they<br />

are overcoming all the obstacles<br />

and challenges life has given them.<br />

On graduation day, all that hard<br />

work pays off and the next chapter<br />

of their lives begins.”<br />

<strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong> 17


Jamari Green: ‘There’s So Much<br />

I Don’t Know About Yet’<br />

Lowcountry Acceleration Academy student<br />

Jamari Green plays a starring role in a new<br />

video project launched by Discovery Education<br />

and Boeing to encourage young learners to pursue<br />

STEM careers in aerospace.<br />

Jamari, who identifies as gay, appears<br />

with a Boeing information technology specialist<br />

to explore the potential of a career in designing<br />

and building airplanes, satellites and lunar rovers<br />

— and to reflect on embracing every aspect of<br />

one’s self.<br />

“How did coming out change you as a<br />

person?” Jamari asks Kassie Dugan of Boeing.<br />

Kassie responds that it freed her to be comfortable<br />

with who she is, not only in her personal<br />

life but also in her high-tech career.<br />

“Because of that experience, I have a<br />

lot of empathy for people … I know what it’s<br />

like to be different and not fit in with the mold<br />

of society,” she tells Jamari. “We need lots of<br />

different perspectives to solve a lot of complex<br />

problems.”<br />

Jamari came out at age 14 and embraces<br />

who he is. But for many reasons, his old high<br />

school never felt like home. In an interview for<br />

<strong>Pathways</strong>, Jamari said he was popular and did<br />

his best to keep up with coursework, but the<br />

crowded hallways, lack of personal attention<br />

from teachers, and one-size-fits all dress code<br />

took their toll.<br />

18 <strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong>


LOWCOUNTRY ACCELERATION ACADEMY<br />

“I don’t feel awkward here<br />

at all. It’s more easy going<br />

and non-judgmental. I feel<br />

comfortable asking for what<br />

I need.”<br />

“It was like a stampede of kids; you could<br />

While popular, Jamari said he grappled<br />

barely move around,” says Jamari, 18. I was<br />

with homophobia and rude behavior by his old<br />

struggling with school and how to find my way in classmates. And he was frustrated by a school<br />

life.”<br />

dress code that seemed design to squash his individuality.<br />

“The dress code was overdramatic and I<br />

Jamari found his way to LAA, a public<br />

charter school that offers a personalized path to<br />

didn’t understand it at all,” he said, noting prohibitions<br />

on certain types of shorts, crop tops, spaghet-<br />

a diploma. “I don’t feel awkward here at all,” he<br />

says. “It’s more easy going and non-judgmental. I ti straps and the like. “Clothes kind of define you<br />

feel comfortable asking for what I need.”<br />

as a person; I take a lot of care in what I wear.”<br />

That wasn’t the case in his previous<br />

There are no such prohibitions at Lowcountry;<br />

graduation candidates are encouraged to<br />

school. Like many students, he hesitated to ask<br />

for help in class<br />

be themselves — and<br />

for fear that others<br />

to help create a supportive,<br />

studious learning<br />

environment. “It’s a<br />

really calm atmosphere<br />

— a good place to sit<br />

down with your work<br />

and get it done.”<br />

The flexible schedule<br />

makes it possible<br />

would judge him. “I<br />

don’t want them to<br />

think I’m dumb —<br />

and I’m not dumb.”<br />

English<br />

content coach Bria<br />

Burke-Koskela has<br />

been especially helpful,<br />

Jamari says. “I’m not good at writing essays,” for him to work full-time job at a restaurant, and to<br />

but Burke-Koskela has sat with him to build his<br />

save for his plans of moving to New York City or<br />

skill at developing a theme and then building on Colorado. He’s exploring college and career paths<br />

it with careful research and writing.<br />

ranging from life coach to Boeing statistician.<br />

Graduation candidate advocate Janell<br />

For Jamari, the sky is — you guessed it —<br />

Reyes has also given him a boost. “She helps get the limit. “There’s so much out there that I don’t<br />

me going. I need a little push sometimes.”<br />

know about yet.”<br />

Acceleration Academies<br />

is proud to partner with<br />

these companies for<br />

digital certifications,<br />

internships and<br />

apprenticeships<br />

<strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong> 19


Scenes from the Academies<br />

20 <strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong> Students in Miami collaborate on a class lesson.


Left: Content coaches work individually<br />

with students on their lessons.<br />

The individualized attention helps our<br />

graduation candidates keep on pace<br />

with their coursework.<br />

Below: Our web-based curriculum<br />

gives graduation candidates the<br />

flexibility to study on campus, at home<br />

or any place with a wifi connection.<br />

Above: Graduation candidates<br />

celebrate upon the completion of<br />

each course with a certificate and<br />

a round of applause from the entire<br />

academy.<br />

Right: The tassel is worth the<br />

hassle! Graduates celebrate with<br />

their families when they receive<br />

their high school diploma.<br />

<strong>Pathways</strong> | First Quarter <strong>2022</strong> 21


class notes<br />

Bethel, WA<br />

When we opened in 2014, we set an enrollment<br />

goal of 300 graduation candidates. After<br />

almost eight years of growth and hard work,<br />

enrollment reached 300 in January! Since then,<br />

the goal has been surpassed with 327 GCs,<br />

and counting. In addition to this milestone, the<br />

first quarter of <strong>2022</strong> has also brought multiple<br />

record highs in monthly course completions,<br />

weekly course completions, and retention<br />

numbers. Also, BAA had the honor of hosting<br />

a graduation in February for the most recent<br />

batch of graduates. Their futures are bright! —<br />

Alison Hansen, Director<br />

Ector County, TX<br />

Our Graduation Candidates have dreams of<br />

supporting their family, becoming business<br />

owners, going to college and having a career.<br />

Even with different dreams, each of our GCs<br />

have the same goal — to earn their high school<br />

diploma. We commit to rally around our GCs<br />

and empower them to grow their resilience. We<br />

walk alongside them and let them know they<br />

are not alone.<br />

— Virginia Hunt, Director<br />

Miami-Dade, FL<br />

The MDAA team is full of rock star educators.<br />

There is one staff member, however, who<br />

demonstrates the passion, mindset, and skill<br />

needed to function at high levels. Erick Velis is<br />

a master motivator and knows how to connect<br />

with his GCs, consistently motivating 80 percent<br />

or more of them to engage in their online<br />

coursework. Just as he goes above and beyond<br />

for our GCs, he also supports his colleagues in<br />

creating a fantastic team.<br />

— Marcus Moore, Director<br />

Clark County, NV<br />

Clark County enrollment soared to 1,071 and<br />

construction began on our third campus, located<br />

in Southeast Las Vegas. Family, friends<br />

and educators celebrated 37 new graduates,<br />

who persevered through the pandemic and are<br />

moving on to the College of Southern Nevada,<br />

career schools, and the armed forces. We will<br />

soon launch our first cohort of 20 students to<br />

earn their Google and Facebook digital certifications<br />

via a partnership with the Nevada Help<br />

Desk. The students will then participate in an<br />

internship and paid apprenticeships with local<br />

businesses including MGM and the City of Las<br />

Vegas!<br />

— Wendy Thompson, Director<br />

Sarasota, FL<br />

Many of our GCs come to us lacking the credits<br />

and testing requirements needed to earn<br />

their Florida high school diplomas. With hard<br />

work and dedication, they can usually earn the<br />

credits. But the standardized tests — particularly<br />

math and English — often present a steeper<br />

challenge. That’s where social studies coach<br />

Fred Thomas comes in; he adopts a mindset<br />

of “work smarter, not harder” and equips our<br />

students with test-taking strategies that build<br />

on their areas of strength. As a result, we are<br />

happy to report, we have an 81% pass rate in<br />

Sarasota. Thank you Fred for your hard work<br />

and dedication to our GCs and their futures.<br />

— Monetta Rustin, Director


St. Lucie, FL<br />

St. Lucie Acceleration Academies opened a<br />

temporary site in Port St. Lucie in anticipation<br />

of the 6,000 SF space that will serve as home<br />

to our 200+ graduation candidates. While the<br />

site is small, it is fully operational and can<br />

accommodate the needs of GCs needing time<br />

to work with their content coaches, take state<br />

testing, or just find a quiet space to work.<br />

Excitement is building about the new campus<br />

and the comfortable and inspiring learning<br />

environment it will provide.<br />

— Paige Latham, Director<br />

Wichita, KS<br />

Wichita Acceleration Academies team members<br />

are gearing up to make a difference in the<br />

community. Although we welcomed our first<br />

students on February 9th, we had already celebrated<br />

the completion of five semester-long<br />

courses in the first weeks of March. Cumulatively,<br />

our graduation candidates had invested<br />

nearly 1,000 hours toward their diplomas by<br />

the end of March, when only weeks earlier they<br />

may not have been in school at all. At WAA,<br />

we remind each graduation candidate that every<br />

moment spent moving forward is time well<br />

spent. Every second counts.<br />

— Chris Turner, Director<br />

Lowcountry, SC<br />

Every time a graduation candidate completes<br />

a course, a staff member shouts “May I have<br />

your attention everybody. “GC (Name) has<br />

completed their course!” At that time, staff<br />

members and GCs stop whatever they are doing<br />

to clap and yell words of praise. Celebrating<br />

our young learners is a common passion of<br />

the entire LAA learning community. We know<br />

that many of them first walked through our<br />

doors feeling defeated, and we want to emphasize<br />

that they are moving up toward their fullest<br />

potential. Holding our first-ever graduation<br />

ceremony in front of GCs in February helped<br />

reinforce that message of hope.<br />

— Dr. Jacinta Bryant, Director<br />

Escambia County, FL<br />

Since we opened last fall to 170 graduation<br />

candidates, our team has demonstrated kindness<br />

and generosity through genuine acts of<br />

service. During the holiday season, we invited<br />

our young learners to share a staff-cooked<br />

holiday meal in our “Come Sit With Us” Campaign.<br />

Several GCs complimented the food,<br />

thanked our team, asked for recipes, and took<br />

pictures to share with their families. Graduation<br />

candidate advocates also shopped, wrapped,<br />

and delivered gifts to GCs who have children.<br />

With spring in the air, we are celebrating our<br />

first graduate and looking ahead to many more.<br />

— Maria Jacobs, Director<br />

class notes


910 W Van Buren-Suite 315<br />

Chicago, IL 60607<br />

#OwnYourSuccess<br />

in<br />

accelerationacademies.org

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