These days, 2020 Sarasota Acceleration Academies grad Mya Kirce works three jobs: home health aide, brain trauma caregiver and certified nursing assistant trainee at a rehab center. “I’ve always known that I like to help people.”
It wasn’t so long ago that Mya was the one needing help. In the final stretch of her senior year at her old school, family turmoil left her homeless and she lost hope. “I didn’t have any place to stay. I was dirty and I just didn’t want to go to school,” she says. “I gave up.”
But then a friend told her about SAA, where a team of educators welcomed her like family. “Once I saw how invested they were in picking me up, it just made me want to do better.”
Instead of long rows of desks and crowded classrooms, the academy offered an open, airy learning space with comfortable chairs. The atmosphere was relaxed but studious.
Most important, though, was the deeply personalized attention. Frank Cruz, the warm and wise-cracking graduation candidate advocate and Fred Thomas, the towering but gentle social studies coach, supplied academic guidance and tough love when she needed it.
Academy Director and life coach Monetta Rustin reminded her again and again of her worth. “She really boosted my confidence in myself to finish.”
Recently, Mya stopped by for help in applying for the scholarship she will use to pursue her bachelor’s degree in nursing. While she’s long since graduated, she says, “They’re here for the long run.”
So is she; the 21-year-old stops by to offer words of advice for graduation candidates who might be struggling — and words of gratitude for their coaches. “I had given up on myself,” she says, wiping a tear from her eyes. “They put me back together.”