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LAA’s Cassius Murray: ‘I Can Just Get It Done At My Own Pace’

October 18, 2022 | Jeffrey Good
LAA’s Cassius Murray: ‘I Can Just Get It Done At My Own Pace’ Hero Image

Cassius Murray is a quick study — so quick that they can lose ground when asked to move at the same pace as most of their classmates. “I almost ended up failing 8th grade math because I knew all the stuff and lost focus.”

Heading into high school during the Covid pandemic compounded matters, and confusion over credits caused Cassius to miss most of 9th grade at their old high school. Rather than returning to that school, Cassius decided to try the personalized approach offered by Lowcountry Acceleration Academy.

Cassius (who uses they/them pronouns) is glad they did, and is roaring through their coursework. “I can just get it done at my pace.”

Cassius said there’s more to like about the public charter high school. They love the setting, an expanse of well-lit learning spaces with comfortable seating and a welcoming, studious and bullying-free atmosphere.

“Instead of being stuck in these cinder block classrooms with 30 other students where it’s loud and chaotic, I can sit back there and just chill,” Cassius says. “It’s a very open and accepting environment.”

Cassius suffers from anxiety and, in a crowded traditional high school, often hesitated to ask questions. When they did, teachers at their old school made Cassius feel like a bother.

“Sometimes I would just shut down and stay quiet,” Cassius says.  “They just seemed so annoyed.”

Educators at Lowcountry, by contrast, are patient and generous with their time and expertise. English content coach Bria Burke-Koskela, for instance, was understanding when Cassius had a rough week and fell a bit behind.

“I thought Miss Bria was going to be mad at me,” Cassius says. “But she was supportive and helped me work at my own pace.”

The academy holds students — who are called “graduation candidates” to remind them of their goals — to a high standard. But Cassius says educators also accord them a healthy measure of freedom and respect. Rather than having to eat at a certain time or ask permission to use the bathroom, GCs are trusted to make their own choices.

“Here it’s about what you need, not what others expect of you,” says Cassius.

Cassius says LAA educators are already helping them think through options for college and pursuing a dream of creating a refuge for abused and abandoned animals. And LAA educators support the learner’s other passions, as well. When Cassius told graduation candidate advocate Janell Reyes about a ball gown they were designing, “she was just so interested. She said, ‘Show me a picture!’ ”