Archie Jackson Jr. and Nick Porter are friends who go way back — and have helped each other find a better way forward with support from the caring educators at Lowcountry Acceleration Academy.
Archie and Nick are teenagers who love to hunt, fish and boat together. Those things have always come easily. High school — not so much.
When Archie and Nick were classmates at a traditional public school in Charleston, SC, the crowded classrooms and lack of personalized attention had them struggling to stay on track for their diplomas.
“I’m more of a hands-on learner,” says Nick, 18. At his old school, busy teachers didn’t have the time to provide much one-on-one attention. “They’d hand you a worksheet and say ‘Do it.’ ”
Last summer, Nick’s buddy enrolled at Lowcountry Acceleration Academy, a new public charter school offering a flexible, personalized path to graduation for students who haven’t found success in traditional schools. Archie and his mom told Nick, “You should check it out.”
From the moment he arrived, Nick knew LAA was a different kind of school. He marvels, “When I first walked in, they already knew my name.”
Both Nick and Archie say math coach Sarah Aquino made them feel welcome, held them accountable and provided patient help in a challenging subject.
“I wasn’t the kind of kid who liked to ask for help at first,” Nick says. “She would walk over and say, ‘What are you stuck on? I’ll help you through.’ ”
After navigating crowded hallways and spending long hours sitting at desks with hard plastic chairs at their old school, the two friends love the academy’s uncrowded learning spaces, comfortable chairs and friendly-but-studious vibe.
Archie said that it took him a few weeks after transferring to stop looking at his phone and get down to work. He says encouragement from the educators at LAA played a big role in him hitting his stride; seeing that the adults around him cared and were eager to help lit a fire.
Nick graduated in June and is preparing to go to school in Florida to become a power company lineman. Archie has also been roaring through his classes, finishing an average of one a week. “Archie’s probably going to graduate early,” says Aquino. “He’s really flying.”
Every time a graduation candidate completes a course, the entire room pauses to call out their name and send up a cheer. The GC is also presented with a course completion certificate to bring home.
The certificates awarded to Archie and Nick don’t just go onto a shelf at home. To celebrate and encourage the two friends, Archie Jackson Sr. has created a wall of fame in his office and displays them there.
“I wish that school was in place when I was in school,” says the father. He dropped out and only years later completed high school. He’s thrilled at the way his son has turned around his high school career.
“I can’t thank that school enough,” says Archie Sr. “They’ve made all the difference.”
Archie Jr. and Sr. work together at an industrial laundry company in Charleston. Archie Jr. has proven so handy with fixing the large machines that an executive with the company that supplies the machines has offered him a job after he graduates.
“He said ‘The day you walk across that stage … I’ll have a plane waiting to take you back to Chicago and begin your training,’ ” says Archie Jr.
Nick says he’s grateful his friend showed him the way to LAA. “If it wasn’t for that school, I’m not sure I would have ever graduated.”
Archie Sr. said he’s proud not only of how his son and friend have succeeded, but also at the role Archie Jr. played in giving Nick a hand up. “Here he saw the good side of the school and he saw a friend who needed it and he recruited him,” he says. “I’m proud as hell of him.”