Tuesday was a big day at St. Lucie Acceleration Academies, as the latest class of graduates strode across the stage to get their diplomas and educational leaders officially cut the ribbon on a spacious new campus in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Television news crews were there to capture the event — and the new opportunities the campus creates for students who are seeking a non-traditional path through high school.
“Over the past few years, high school dropout rates have started to climb across the county. Experts largely blame the pandemic for the increase, but other factors like finances or family issues may also play a role,” reported CBS-12 News. “Now, some of our local leaders in Port St. Lucie are stepping up to offer a non-traditional experience to students who were confronted with challenges that sidetracked their education.
“Acceleration Academies allow students to learn at their own pace, giving them the freedom to attend school online or in-person,” the station continued. “Now, they have a brand-new location in Port St. Lucie — their second in the county — giving struggling students a second chance.”
The station interviewed a new grad, Chevauhntai James, who had dropped out of a traditional school during the Covid pandemic. “I was slacking in school once corona hit. I didn’t really, I wasn’t liking school anymore. I fell down on my grades,” Chevauhntai said. “But then my mom had introduced me to Acceleration Academy. It’s not a whole bunch of kids crowding up and it’s not overwhelming. You could do everything at your own pace.”
St. Lucie Superintendent Dr. Jon R. Prince attended the ribbon-cutting, as did Acceleration Academies Co-founders Dr. Joseph Wise and Mark Graves.
“All of these students had left our public schools at one time or another and this was an opportunity for us (to) — I hate to use the word recapture, but re-interest — students in education and getting them here and letting them finish,” said Dr. Prince. “It’s life altering for these kids.”
“School districts continue to recognize young people’s need for flexibility. Life’s complex, especially since the pandemic,” said Dr. Wise, CEO of the growing nationwide network of schools. “Why wouldn’t we graduate every single young person from high school before they age out? That’s the goal in America, should be the goal in America. It’s certainly the goal in St. Lucie County.”
Tuesday’s class of new grads brings to 400 the number of young learners who have earned their diplomas at SLAA campuses in Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce through a flexible, personalized curriculum offering ample one-on-one coaching. The CBS report concluded, “Hopefully, it’s just the first of many graduations to come.”
ABC-25 News also covered the ribbon-cutting. The station reported that Acceleration Academies recruits students who have dropped out or disengaged from their studies, working in partnership with Dr. Prince, Dr. Sunny Booker and other school district leaders to give the students — who are called “graduation candidates” to remind them of their goal — another chance.
“A regular high school diploma is better than a GED because it will prepare you for more things. You have choices of going to college, you can get into all branches of the military,” said Dr. Wise. “So it really makes me proud to see our teachers and students getting about this work because time is running out.”