After Patrick Bell began high school, his parents didn’t encourage him to study hard. Instead, he says, they encouraged him to drop out. “They never really supported me in school. At a very young age, they wanted me drop out of school and support my 11 siblings.”
Patrick resisted that idea, continuing to attend classes, do his homework and push toward his diploma. It wasn’t easy; his ADHD often made it hard for him to focus. And before he could complete his studies, he became the teen father to a baby girl, Marcy.
Then the Covid pandemic hit, and he found himself two courses short of graduation, without a clear path to completion. The guidance counselor at his old high school recommended an online credit recovery program, but for reasons that remain unclear to him, he wasn’t admitted. “They said, ‘You have to get your GED.’ ”
No thanks, said Patrick. He knew a diploma was key to his plans to the future he envisioned, which included going to trade school to learn the skill of welding. As he began researching non-traditional options — the phone rang.
It was a representative of Clark County Acceleration Academies, who told Patrick that he could finish up his coursework in a program that featured a personalized curriculum, one-on-one coaching and a schedule flexible enough to accommodate the full-time job he needed to support himself, his daughter and his girlfriend.
“I said, ‘How much?’ ”
“He said, ‘Dude, this is free.’ That blew me right away.”
CCAA works in partnership with the Clark County School District to provide a nontraditional path for students who have — for reasons including work and family obligations, learning differences and the school closures caused by the pandemic — not found success in traditional schools.
Patrick’s days are full. The 19-year-old works 63 hours a week at a precious metal distributing fulfillment center and devotes a lot of time to taking care of 1-year-old Marcy, especially when his girlfriend is taking college classes. He has just one full day off a week — Saturday — and needed to do the bulk of his coursework during that time.
At a traditional school, Saturday would normally be a day when teachers were enjoying their day off. But English content coach Joseph Savoy told Patrick that he’d make the time to help him complete his final classes in English and government.
“He would coach me through all my lessons,” says Patrick. “He was like, ‘Look man, you’ve got a daughter, you work 63 hours a week, let’s kill it on the weekend.’ ”
Other staff members helped Patrick as well, sending him encouraging messages when he would fall off the pace. And the encouragement worked; in February, with his baby girl in his arms, Patrick donned cap and gown and claimed the diploma he had worked so hard to earn.
What are his dreams for the future? Before he became a father, he wanted to travel the world. Now, he says, “My big dream is to have this one-year-old have the kind of childhood I wanted to have.”
And to think, it all began with one phone call, he says. “That phone call, it changed my life.”