As one of the first graduation candidates to enroll in the newly opened Wichita Acceleration Academies, Lamaria King is already setting a high standard. Her notebook brims with coursework notes and organizational tools, she’s powering through a challenging English course, and she’s already made an impression on her coaches and advocates.
“She’s one of the most determined people I’ve ever seen,” says graduation candidate advocate Rochelle Strack.
Lamaria has to be. When she was just 15, a serious injury left her mother unable to work and cost the family their home. Since then, Lamaria has been sleeping on couches in the homes of relatives, working an overnight shift at FedEx and, for the last nine months, caring for her baby daughter, Da’maria.
“A lot of people thought I was not going to get as far as I have,” says Lamaria. “I showed them different.”
Lamaria, 19, has been a student in several public high school programs. But with her need to work to support herself and her baby, the instability in her home life, and the limited personal attention available at traditional schools, she fell behind and missed the chance to graduate with her cohort last year.
When she learned about Wichita Acceleration Academies, a program offering flexible scheduling and ample one-on-one attention, she felt her hopes rise. Those hopes have been confirmed in her first weeks at the school.
In traditional school, she says, “it was hard to get all the help I needed.” At WAA, by contrast, “any time I need help, I get it.”
Lamaria works loading trucks at FedEx Ground, starting her shift at 2:30 a.m. (her mother watches the baby when she’s away), then stopping home to pick up her schoolwork and head to the academy’s temporary campus downtown.
“After I go to work, I come right in here.”
Strack says Lamaria perseveres even in the face of academic challenges. “She’s in a hard class,” Strack says. “No matter what she encounters in school work, she does not give up.”
“She’s a very good advocate for herself.”
Lamaria has about a semester and half’s work to complete before earning her diploma. After graduation, she plans to study to be a certified nursing assistant and/or a nail technician.
And when her daughter grows up and hears of her mother’s determination to earn her diploma and build a better life?
“Don’t try to be like everything and do what they say you should do,” says Lamaria. “When I do it my way, I know I am accomplishing something.”