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Academies in Action: Highlights from the First Quarter

April 18, 2022 | Jeffrey Good

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 leaders to respond to this prompt: What was a highlight of the first 3 months of 2022 at your academy? Here is what they had to say.


When we opened in 2014, we set an enrollment goal of 300 graduation candidates. After almost eight years of growth and hard work, enrollment reached 300 in January. Since then, the goal has been surpassed with 327 GCs, and counting. In addition to this milestone, the first quarter of 2022 has also brought multiple record highs in monthly course completions, weekly course completions, and retention numbers. Also, BAA had the honor of hosting a graduation in February for the most recent batch of graduates. Their futures are bright.

— Alison Hansen, Director, Bethel (WA)


Clark County enrollment soared to 1,071 and construction began on our third campus, located in Southeast Las Vegas. Family, friends and educators celebrated 37 new graduates who persevered through the pandemic and are moving on to the College of Southern Nevada, career schools, and the armed forces. We will soon launch our first cohort of 20 students to earn their Google and Facebook digital certifi- cations via a partnership with the Nevada Help Desk. The students will then participate in an internship and paid apprenticeships with local businesses including MGM and the City of Las Vegas.

— Wendy Thompson, Director, Clark County (NV)


Our graduation candidates have dreams of supporting their families, becoming business owners, going to college and having a career. Even with different dreams, each of our GCs has the same goal — to earn their high school diploma. We commit to rallying around our GCs and empowering them to grow their resilience. We walk alongside them and let them know they are not alone.

— Virginia Hunt, Director, Ector County (TX)


Since we opened last fall to 170 graduation candidates, our team has demonstrated kindness and generosity through genuine acts of service. During the holiday season, we invited our young learners to share a staff-cooked holiday meal in our “Come Sit With Us” Cam- paign. Several GCs complimented the food, thanked our team, asked for recipes, and took pictures to share with their families. Graduation candidate advocates also shopped, wrapped, and delivered gifts to GCs who have children. With spring in the air, we are celebrating our first graduate and looking ahead to many more.

— Maria Jacobs, Director, Escambia County (FL)


Every time a graduation candidate completes a course, a staff member shouts “May I have your attention everybody. “GC (Name) has completed their course!” At that time, staff members and GCs stop whatever they are doing to clap and yell words of praise. Celebrating our young learners is a common passion of the entire LAA learning community. We know that many of our students first walked through our doors feeling defeated, and we want to emphasize that they are moving toward their fullest potential. Holding our first-ever graduation ceremony in front of GCs in February helped reinforce that message of hope.

— Dr. Jacinta Bryant, Director, Lowcountry Acceleration Academy


The MDAA team is full of rock star educators. There is one staff member, however, who demonstrates the passion, mindset, and skill needed to function at the highest levels. Erick Velis is a master motivator and knows how to connect with his GCs, consistently motivating 80 percent or more of them to engage in their online coursework. Just as he goes above and beyond for our students, he also supports his colleagues in creating a fantastic team.

— Marcus Moore, Director, Miami-Dade (FL)


Many of our GCs come to us lacking the credits and testing requirements needed to earn their Florida high school diplomas. With hard work and dedication, they can usually earn the credits. But the standardized tests — particularly math and English — often present a steeper challenge. That’s where social studies coach Fred Thomas comes in; he adopts a mindset of “work smarter, not harder” and equips our students with test-taking strategies that build on their areas of strength. As a result, we are happy to report, we have an 81 percent pass rate in Sarasota. Thank you, Fred, for your hard work and dedication to our GCs and their futures.

— Monetta Ruskin, Director, Sarasota (FL)


St. Lucie Acceleration Academies opened a temporary site in Port St. Lucie in anticipation of the 6,000 square feet space that will serve as home to our 200-plus graduation candidates. While the site is small, it is fully operational and can accommodate the needs of GCs needing time to work with their content coaches, take state testing, or just find a quiet space to work. Excitement is building about the new campus and the comfortable and inspiring learning environment it will provide.

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


Wichita Acceleration Academies team members are gearing up to make a difference in the community. Although we welcomed our first students on February 9th, we had already celebrated the completion of five semester-long courses in the first weeks of March. Cumulatively, our graduation candidates had invested nearly 1,000 hours toward their diplomas by the end of March, when only weeks earlier they may not have been in school at all. At WAA, we remind each graduation candidate that every moment spent moving forward is time well spent. Every second counts.

— Chris Turner, Director, Wichita (KS)