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Academies in Action: Looking Back on a Challenging Year

December 2, 2021 | Jeffrey Good
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Each month, we take a moment to learn from the educational leaders who bring the Acceleration Academies mission to life, day in and day out. This month, we asked our Academy Directors to respond to this prompt: The year 2021 brought many challenges, including a lingering pandemic and the challenge of re-engaging students who had fallen off track. But it also brought many successes, as graduation candidates aced courses and progressed toward their dream of a high school diploma. At your Academy, what made 2021 a year to remember? Here is what they had to say.


Definitely, 2021 was a year to remember. Our graduation candidates overcame great challenges adjusting to what the “new” normal now looks and feels like after the Covid lockdown. One of the best parts of 2021 was being able to re-open the doors of the academy and see our GCs in person. Many of them had joined us virtually during the pandemic and this was their first experience working with our team of educators in person. This was also a year in which we hosted our own graduation ceremony and got to celebrate the long hours of dedication and hard work. We are so proud of their persistence.

— Alison Hansen, Director, Bethel (WA)


Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Clark County team continued to find innovative ways to engage, inspire and support graduation candidates in their educational endeavors. The team’s efforts resulted in two of the largest graduating classes in the academies’ history (40 in September and 40 projected for Dec. 18th) with 129 grads total since January; more than 2,553 course completions (which topped our network goal) and an enrollment climbing steadily toward 1,000 by year’s end. The academic successes of our students — coupled with the kindness, care and dedication of the team — made 2021 a year to remember.

— Wendy Thompson, Director, Clark County (NV)


For Escambia County Acceleration Academy, 2021 was a year of New Beginnings. We are proud to serve in our community and celebrate each individual success. I am amazed at how the ECAA team goes above and beyond to reach every GC, and I am so excited for 2022.

— Maria Jacobs, Director, Escambia County (FL)


This was definitely a year of educational transformation for young learners in South Carolina. Lowcountry Acceleration Academy opened in August and has become a place of refuge and hope for students who have struggled academically, socially and emotionally. As a former traditional educator, I knew we could not conduct business as usual when students returned to school after the pandemic. I am proud to say that LAA has taken on that challenge by providing graduation candidates with the necessary tools and resources to ensure their success. This is evident every time I see a staff member sit beside a GC and say, “How can I help you today?”

— Dr. Jacinta Bryant, Director, Lowcountry Acceleration Academy


I don’t believe anyone will remember the pandemic in the way you think you will. I’d call 2021 the Year of the Comeback. And while we are still defining the new normal, I believe that will stand out for our graduation candidates will be the kindness, support and inspiration they found at Miami-Dade Acceleration Academies. People don’t remember days; they remember moments. The MDAA team strives every day to be a home for our GCs, a place where they want to be and will remember fondly.

— Gina Montagnino-Fiske, Director, Miami-Dade (FL)


Without a doubt, 2021 was a year to remember. What stands out to me overall is the tenacity, passion and dedication of the Sarasota team members, our content coaches, graduation candidate advocates and life/career coaching team. Our GCs are amazing — and a big part of their success is fueled by the support they receive from our team of dedicated, caring educators.

— Monetta Ruskin, Director, Sarasota (FL).


This was a year that allowed St. Lucie Acceleration Academies a chance to reinforce our mission as a school where young people come to feel supported and cared for, and to find their own brand of success. Graduation candidates and educators alike were able to rediscover our “whys” and move forward with a renewed sense of who we are and what we are here to accomplish — helping each and every young learner earn a high school diploma and the promise it holds for their futures.

— Paige Latham, Director, St. Lucie (FL).