With a crowd of school district leaders, educators, students — and Odessa area TV and newspaper outlets — in attendance, Acceleration Academies of Ector County celebrated a new campus and new opportunities for learners seeking a flexible, personalized path to their high school diplomas.
“It takes a strong community to create strong public schools and successful students. We looked for a partner to help us re-engage with students who dropped out. How do we help them?” Dr. Scott Muri, Superintendent of Schools, told the crowd gathered at Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“The Ector County Independent School District’s partnership with Acceleration Academies is an important way to create those opportunities for young people for whom traditional high school doesn’t work,” Dr. Muri continued. “They may need to work full-time to support themselves and their families; they may struggle with poverty or social anxiety; they may need an individualized learning plan that allows them to move at their own best pace — whether slower or faster than ‘normal’ — and to get plenty of one-on-one attention from caring educators.”
For more coverage of the ribbon-cutting:
* Article in Odessa American Newspaper
* Feature story on NewsWest9 TV
* Post by Ector County Independent School District
“My experience here overall was really excellent. They helped me graduate, of course,” recent grad Mariah Arriaga told a television interviewer. “It’s not in a hall full of students where I get anxiety … I finish at my own pace. It really helped me a lot to get to where I am now. My next step in life is to go to college. I have always wanted to be a nurse ever since I was little.”
Dr. Muri was joined by ECISD Assistant Superintendent Alicia Syverson and other leaders from the district and Acceleration Academies, including EAA Director Virginia Hunt and Mark Graves, Acceleration Academies Co-founder.
“We are thrilled to be able to provide a different path for young people in Ector County,” says Graves, who is also Executive Vice President and Chief Engagement Officer for the network, which operates 14 academies in Nevada, Washington, Texas, Kansas, South Carolina, Florida and, soon, Georgia. “As our growing number of graduates can attest, having the chance to pursue a personalized path to graduation enables young people to — as our motto says — #OwnYourSuccess.”
Three Odessa-area TV stations and the Odessa American newspaper turned out Wednesday to cover a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the school and the new opportunities it provides to students — who are called “graduation candidates” to remind them of their goals — for whom traditional public schools are not a good fit.
Those graduation candidates include young people who are juggling not only studies but also their responsibilities as young parents, Dr. Muri told the audience.
“One example of that partnership is the way Acceleration Academies is working with our Teen Parent Related Services office to provide support to young men and women who become parents while still in high school. With that partnership in place, these young moms and dads can pursue their high school careers on a schedule that works for them and their babies, and help them lay a foundation for opportunities that remain strong even when a booming industry endures a temporary decline,” he said.
“Is it working?” Dr. Muri concluded. The answer is yes. “Acceleration Academies of Ector County provides that non-traditional option to more than 170 students, a number that we hope will grow over time. Even as we began to rollout this service this year, 15 students took advantage. We found 15 students looking for this kind of opportunity. They put in the work, they received the support. Six graduated with their schools as part of our traditional graduation ceremonies in May. Nine more walked the stage during the summer graduation ceremony.”
Those 15 grads represent the beginning of a new era of opportunity for young people in Ector County who might not otherwise earn the diplomas that lay the groundwork for higher education, trade school, military service and well-paying jobs.
One of the grads, teen mom Alexis Lagrone, says that without Acceleration Academies of Ector County, she might not be proudly displaying her high school diploma.
“I had a job, I had school and I had a baby. It was overwhelming,” said Alexis. “Transferring to Ector Acceleration Academies has been the biggest blessing.”
Photos from the ribbon cutting courtesy of Eli Hartman