Before she got pregnant at age 15, Queen Bell says she was satisfied to coast along in school. “As long as I was getting a C, I really didn’t care.”
But when gave birth to her son, Ya’Siyah, a year ago, Queen says her perspective shifted.
“I had to push myself to be a better version of me,” she says — for herself, and for her baby boy.
Clark County Acceleration Academies has played a key role in her realizing that ambition, Queen says. With flexible scheduling, a personalized approach and ample one-on-one support, she’s been powering through her coursework and hopes to graduate in December.
With pregnancy came morning sickness so severe Queen could barely get out of bed. She lost weight and lost her way through high school. “I just dropped out.”
But when her baby boy arrived last year, she made a resolution. Even as the Covid pandemic closed school buildings, she wanted to get her education back on track. One day, she found a brochure about Clark County Acceleration Academies hanging on her door.
CCAA works in partnership with the Clark County School District to provide a non-traditional path for students for whom a traditional school doesn’t work.
Queen took advantage of the flexible scheduling to do her work when she wasn’t busy caring for her baby. And she says she appreciated the one-on-one coaching and encouragement provided by the educators and advocates at CCAA.
She credits CCAA Director Wendy Thompson, Assistant Director Anthony Carvalho, Career Coach JoAnne Brown, and Graduation Candidate Advocates Chris Turner and Katya Riley. “That whole group of people have helped me.”
Riley, in particular, made herself available any time she needed help or a gentle nudge, Queen said.
“She’s amazing inside and out. She’s bright,” Queen says of Riley. “You can feel her energy when you walk in the room. She inspired me to be great.”
Riley said she noticed Queen’s dedication to her studies. Although she was only 17 and had a baby to raise, the young woman put in the effort to learn.
“I’d tell her, ‘My Queen is working hard. You earned your name,’ ” Riley says. “She inspires me. She’s one of a kind.”
Queen plans to study midwifery at the University of South Carolina. While she did not have the guidance of a midwife when her son was born, she did research on natural childbirth and was able to bring Ya’Siyah into the world without anesthesia. She said the process was painful, but worth it.
“I thought maybe I could help other women have their children naturally,” she says. “I enjoyed my experience.”
When Queen strides across the stage to claim her diploma, her son will be there with her. She declares, “I want my son to know if I can do it, he can do it.”