Like so many of the young learners who turn to Acceleration Academies, Elijah Hardaman found himself derailed by personal troubles. He had to live in foster care for a time and, during his junior year, dropped out due to the turmoil at home.
Elijah had a dream: He wanted to serve in the U.S. Army. There was a problem, though. “I wanted to join in 2019, but I didn’t have a diploma” — a requirement for enlistment.
A friend of his who was a graduation candidate at Clark County Acceleration Academies told him about the program with a flexible, individualized approach designed for people like him who needed to get their high school careers back on track.
Elijah acknowledges getting off to a slow start at CCAA, but he says the encouragement of his coaches and a growing record of academic successes lit him up. “I used to be lazy, but all this motivation pushed me to a new level.”
Before he knew it, Elijah was devoting 8, 10, even 12 hours a day to his coursework. And at every step, he had support from the dedicated team of educators at CCAA.
“I talked to all my teachers every day,” says Elijah. “I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”
And where is he today? In the Army, training to become an artillery scout calling in air support for soldiers in the Army, Air Force and Navy who are pinned down in battle situations.
The job involves a lot of math in locating troops on a grid and dispatching help. “Math has always been my favorite subject,” says Elijah. And he likes the math of a military career. “If I serve in the military for 10 years, I can give a college education to my children.”
He has nothing but gratitude for the educators who helped him reach his goal. He cited in particular Life coach Natalie Bishop, who helped him move at a fast pace through his classes so that he could make the deadline for graduation and enlistment.
“She was extremely helpful. She was like ‘I know you’re motivated, I’ve seen you do your classwork, I’m going to get you your next class,’ ” he recalls. “That was a huge help. I can’t thank her enough.”
He also thanked Assistant Director Anne Harper, who helped him keep his studies on track despite a tumultuous situation at home. “She was like, ‘Nothing’s over yet. I can work on the weekends if you need.’ ”
“The teachers here really do care.”
Military life is no easy ride. He’s up at 4:30 to run, do pushups and sit-ups, clean the barracks — all before breakfast — and then settle in to learn not only his role as an individual soldier but also as a member of a life-or-death team.
“We call them battle buddies,” he says. “These are people we’re ready to go to war with.”
It’s a challenge, but one Elijah says he loves. And what keeps him going, day after day? “Hard work and determination. I learned that through Acceleration Academy.”