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Connecticut Charter School Graduate Works to Reduce Violence in Her Community

Ariana Rodriguez recently graduated from Common Ground High School in New Haven, CT. She says she is very proud of her accomplishments throughout her four years of high school, and one project of which she is most proud is a video honoring friend and classmate Javier Martinez who died in a shooting in December, 2013.

Part of her video includes research on the correlation between tree cover and violence rates. This research, done by Yale University, shows that violence goes down as tree cover and green spaces go up. Part of that research is included in the video, which shows students and friends planting a tree in remembrance of Javier. Ariana says it is both important to remember her friend, and be a good steward of the environment.

Ariana says, “My school helps guide kids not only to a bright future but a meaningful one as well. I started off as a free spirited person coming into Common Ground and left as a leader ready to change the world.”

Ariana has also organized projects at Common Ground such as Trees for Peace, and other healing activities as students coped with the loss of their friend. Common Ground was one of the first charter schools approved in Connecticut in the nineties. The school focuses on caring for the environment, sustainability, and connecting the students to the land.

Ariana says she has had numerous opportunities for internships at places such as the Nature Conservancy, and has been taking college courses since her sophomore year.

She will be attending Southern Connecticut State University, majoring in nursing and minoring in environmental science.She wants to continue to promote goodwill and peace in the world.

She says, “I plan to go to third world countries or places that have had disasters and work to set up health tents.”

A link to her recent work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Nr0H7-ZS6U&feature=youtu.be&noredirect=1

This story is part of an ongoing series in the month of June highlighting the success of charter school graduates and schools across the country. Click here to view the latest from #30DaysOfGrad.

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Determined Mom Earns High School Diploma at 22

Today’s #30DaysOfGrad post was written by Adali Ortiz, a recent graduate of Arizona Collegiate High School, right before her high school graduation.

My name is Adali Ortiz. On May 22nd I will finally earn my high school diploma. I dropped out of high school because I got pregnant. I then stayed home with my daughter for two years until I could find somebody I could really trust to care for her.

Two months before I turned 21, I tried to re-enroll at several high schools, but they wouldn’t take me because I was too old. My hopes were down because I didn’t want a GED. I preferred a diploma because I wanted to be a good role model for my daughter. I started to think I would never get a diploma, then came to Arizona Collegiate High School (ACHS) and got accepted. I said to myself, ‘This is my chance to work really hard!’

At 21-years-old, I was only a sophomore, so I had to work really hard to get good grades. I only had nine credits when I started at ACHS. In two years, I made up three years of school. I took online classes and came to school all day for 8 hours.

My teachers at Arizona Collegiate have given me a lot of support and helped me with my classes. Every question I have, they help me answer it. They are always there for me. My husband and dad helped a lot too.

Without ACHS I would be in a different situation because I tried to enroll in other schools and they wouldn’t accept me. ACHS gave me a chance to earn my diploma.
It’s been worth all the struggles because I’m at the end now and everything is going great.

I’m just waiting for the day to be able to reach for that diploma and have my baby run to me and give me a hug and show her that mommy made it. I want her to be proud of me. I want to work hard, have a career and give my daughter a really good education and everything she needs. My immediate plans are to be an interpreter at a children’s hospital. I’ve applied for the training classes that start in August. I also plan to go to college and work in the medical field.

In life it’s hard because sometimes you find yourself in situations that you think you are not going to be able to keep up with, but if there’s a chance then take it! Everything will be worth it in the end.

This story is part of an ongoing series in the month of June highlighting the success of charter school graduates and schools across the country. Click here to view the latest from #30DaysOfGrad.

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Rosario’s Story: Dreaming of Better Health Care

FinRosario BHancial troubles meant that Rosario’s family didn’t always have healthcare. When visiting urgent care facilities, she noticed that those giving medical care to her family didn’t look like those receiving the help. Rosario vowed she would change that. That’s why she’s put so much effort into her schoolwork over the years.

“School has always been my priority because I know what my parents have sacrificed to give me a good education and I know the benefits that come from having a college degree will be well worth the hustle put into achieving one,” she says.

At Aspire Benjamin Holt College Preparatory Academy, Rosario was not only challenged by her teachers but given extra support when it was needed. Teachers made sure that she not only understood the material being taught but also how to analyze it, question it, and apply it to real problems that require reasoning skills. She was even pushed to apply to schools she didn’t think were within her reach – like Cornell.

At Cornell University, Rosario plans to gain a better understanding of healthcare, both nationally and globally. She hopes to become a physician who supports her community through free clinics and workshops aimed at preventative treatment.

This story is part of an ongoing series in the month of June highlighting the success of charter school graduates and schools across the country. Click here to view the latest from #30DaysOfGrad.

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Overcoming Violence: Esmeralda’s Story

Esmeralda Cortez“Kids growing up in Oakland grow up with guns instead of their toys, with drugs instead of their pacifiers, and with gangs instead of their families. When I was in the fifth grade my brother, Hernan Cortez, was murdered. I didn’t know how to react to any of it.”

She was 11 at the time. In the days and months that followed, Esmeralda started acting up in school, getting suspended frequently, until she was finally expelled. Losing a brother and getting expelled from school was challenging for Esmeralda both academically and mentally.

Fortunately, Esmeralda enrolled in Aspire Lionel Wilson Preparatory Academy. Teachers and school leaders immediately stepped in, supporting her in classes and helping her cope with regular life stress. Esmeralda had teachers who challenged her, counselors who offered a little extra help when needed, and after-school programs to keep her safe and on task.

Now, Esmeralda plans to attend the University of California at Berkeley. She’s unsure what path she’ll take. She could be a teacher, a politician, an activist. But whatever she does, Esmeralda dreams of making Oakland a safer place to live and to support the success of local teenagers.

This story is part of an ongoing series in the month of June highlighting the success of charter school graduates and schools across the country. Click here to view the latest from #30DaysOfGrad.

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Carlene’s Story: From Foster Care to Yale

carleneCarlene Ervin is a graduating senior from Aspire California College Preparatory Academy in the Bay Area who grew up in foster care. She will finally be leaving the foster care system when she begins Yale University next fall. Here she shares a bit of the challenges she’s overcome, her experience at Aspire, and her career goals.

What obstacles have you overcome?

My biggest obstacle was often myself. Growing up in foster care made me a very angry and bitter child. I didn’t trust anyone and felt like it was me against the world. My biggest obstacle was understanding that I wasn’t alone and if you let them, people will conspire to help you.

How has Aspire helped you?

Aspire has helped me by having amazing teachers who dedicated their time to work with me to improve in my education but also my character. It also gave me a sense of community that I could call my own. From my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Chai to my ex-math teacher/current Dean of Student Life at Cal Prep, Ms. Salazar

What is your college career goal?

My college career goal is to major in Political Science. I want to eventually go to law school and focus my attention on education reform on a state (and eventually national) level. I am inspired by the work that Aspire does in communities. I want to change things on a grander scale so that opening Aspire Charter Schools is an easier process.

Where will you be attending college?

Yale University!

 

This story is part of an ongoing series in the month of June highlighting the success of charter school graduates and schools across the country. Click here to view the latest from #30DaysOfGrad.

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Overcoming the Odds: Yasbad’s Story

Yasbad Senior PicNot only was Yasbad acclimating to a new country when moving to America from Ethiopia, the then middle school student was also getting to know his immediate family. Up until that point, Yasbad had been raised by other family members. In a new country, with a new language and customs, Yasbad was also getting to know his father.

Access to a better education prompted the family move, but Yasbad faced his share of challenges as he started school in America. He knew little English and was constantly bullied. With no one to talk to, he spent much of his free time in the library reading. For him, that extra time paid off. He quickly improved in school and is now looking forward to attending college.

This month Yasbad will graduate from Aspire Alexander Twilight Secondary Academy in California.  “Aspire has made me realize that no matter how different others are from me, I should respect them and their differences from me,” he says. “I have become more tolerant of others. Because of Aspire, I am ready to face any challenge that comes my way, and I am ready to help others with theirs.”

Yasbad is the first in his family to attend college, and will go to California State University-Chico next fall, where he plans to continue learning about the world around him. Yasbad hopes that by earning a college degree, he will be better prepared to give back to the important people in his life.

This blog post is part of an ongoing series during the month of June celebrating #30DaysofGrad. Click here to read other graduation stories from charter school students and schools across the country.

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Media Round-Up

NAPCS in the News

“Uh oh: De Blasio’s war on charter schools begins,” Nina Rees (President & CEO) quoted, Daily Caller, Feb. 28

“Opinion: De Blasio Declares War On Charter Schools,” Starlee Rhoades (VP for communications) video interview, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28

“New York’s de Blasio boots charter schools from city space,” Nina Rees quoted, Fox News, Feb. 27

“Major Charter School Chain To Lose Space Under New De Blasio Plan,” Nina Rees quoted, Huffington Post, Feb. 27

“New N.Y.C. Mayor Rescinds Co-Location Agreement With Some Charter Schools,” Nina Rees quoted, Education Week, Feb. 27

“The Good and the Bad in de Blasio’s Education Plan,” Nina Rees op-ed, U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 25

News to Know

  • “Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Initiative to Put Minority Boys on Road to Success,” CBS News, Feb. 28
  • “Do Chicago Charters Expel Too Many Students?” Chicago Tribune, Feb. 27
  • “Omaha Community Pushes For Charter Schools at State Capital,” Omaha World-Herald, Feb. 26
  • “Alaska Should Build On Success of Public Charter Schools,” Anchorage Daily News, Feb. 25
  • “New York City Chancellor Meets with Public Charter School Leaders,” New York Times, Feb. 24

Audience Favorites

Facebook— You know why YOU support charter schools. Take a look at a few of our top reasons why Congress should too: http://bit.ly/OD6PGE

Twitter@ninacharters@billdeblasio is taking away the most valuable thing we can give to our kids – a quality education.” http://bit.ly/1pzymXg

You can stay up to date on all the developments in the public charter school sector by subscribing to our regular news updates.

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Media Round Up

NAPCS in the News

  • “School Choice Should Be a Fundamental Right,” op-ed by Nina Rees (President & CEO), U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 28
  • “Minnesota ranked first in charter school report,” National Alliance Mentioned, Budgeteer, Jan. 29
  • “President Obama’s education comments: A little something for everyone?” Nina quoted, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jan. 29
  • “Harkin’s 2014 priorities – Charters freed up for federal cash – CEOs call for E-Rate capital,” Nina quoted, Politico, Jan. 30

News to Know

  • “Two New Charter Networks Win Endorsement to Operate in Camden,” NJ Spotlight, Jan. 31
  • “South Carolina, Nevada Note Charter Law Rankings,” Beaufort Gazette, Jan. 30
  • “Minnesota Clings onto Top Spot in National Alliance Charter Law Rankings; Ind., Miss. Rise,” Education Week, Jan. 29
  • “Six Charter Proposals Likely to Be Approved in Washington State,” Columbian, Jan. 28
  • “National School Choice Week Aims to Spread Awareness,” Education Week, Jan. 27

Audience Favorites

Facebook— Charter schools are closing the achievement gap and making the difference for students and families. LIKE and SHARE to spread the word!

Twitter—#Charterschool students attend college at higher rates. Read blog series 5 Reasons Public Charter Schools Are Great. http://bit.ly/1jFSQML

You can stay up to date on all the developments in the public charter school sector by subscribing to our regular news updates…Sign up here.

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Media Round Up

National Alliance in the News

  • “The Charter School Tipping Point,” National Alliance mentioned, Voice of San Diego, Jan. 21

News to Know

  • “Spokane Approves Washington State’s First Charter School,” Spokesman-Review, Jan. 24
  • “Washington State Poised for First Public Charter School,” KREM, Jan. 23
  • “New Jersey Bill Would Revise Charter School Law,” NJ Spotlight, Jan. 22
  • “Chicago Needs More High-Quality Charter Schools,” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 21

Audience Favorites

Facebook— Chicago Tribune makes the case for more public charters schools:

“Parents don’t want to have to ‘negotiate the system.’ They don’t want to languish on waiting lists. They want access to more innovative schools. They want more charter schools. There aren’t enough of them in Chicago.”

Twitter— @charteralliance “Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King Jr. #MLKDay2014

You can stay up to date on all the developments in the public charter school sector by subscribing to our regular news updates…Sign up here.