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30 Days of Grad: Gateway Public Schools

Duncan AlexanderDuncan Alexander
During his commencement address to the Gateway High School Class of 2015, math teacher, Mr. Rick Aidi, described how his students have taught him so much over the last four years. One student in particular, Duncan Alexander, proved to him that “no matter how bleak one’s circumstances are, the right attitude can work miracles.”

Duncan is part of the foster care system, which has led to many transitions and uncertainty during his years in school. Despite many challenges throughout his life, Duncan remains extremely positive, committed to giving back to others, and grateful for the support that Gateway has provided him. Read more about Duncan here.

Ariana CamposAriana Campos
Ever since Ariana Campos was a little girl she knew that she wanted to spend her time helping animals. What she didn’t know was that Gateway would set her on the road to college as an aspiring Zoologist with dreams of traveling to Africa and the Galápagos Islands to help exotic animals.

This fall, Ariana will be the first in her family to attend college. She will make a big move and travel from the West Coast to the East Coast to attend Ohio Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts school with a challenging curriculum that connects classroom theory with real-world experience. She will be studying zoology with the hopes of working at an animal conservation center. Read more about Ariana here.

Golden HongGolden Hong
When Golden Hong entered Gateway High School as a freshman, he struggled with writing, grammar, and analysis. Now he is graduating Gateway having received the honor of Highest Academic Achievement, which recognizes the senior with the highest grade point average throughout their high school career.

Gateway’s rigorous academic program enabled Golden to develop strong writing skills while also providing strong participation in STEM areas that helped shape his desire to pursue a career in engineering.

Golden will be attending the University of California, San Diego, in the fall and major in engineering. Read more about Golden here.

Dezáray LoweryDezáray Lowery
Dezáray Lowery’s time at Gateway High School has been filled with many life-changing experiences that have helped shape her compassionate, confident, and ambitious personality.

During her freshman year, Dezáray participated in a program through Gateway called buildOn, a non-profit organization that helps build schools in some of the world’s poorest countries. Dezáray traveled to Haiti as the youngest member of the group and was the only African-American woman.

Dezáray has a passion for helping others and plans on studying psychology at Spelman College. Dezáray became interested in pursuing psychology while exploring different career paths with Gateway’s Director of College Counseling. Read more about Dezáray here.

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30 Days of Grad: Urban Prep Academy

For the sixth consecutive year, 100% of the seniors from Urban Prep‘s Englewood, West, and Bronzeville campuses have been accepted to four-year colleges and universities.

Students from all three campuses, faculty, parents and other special guests, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, celebrated the momentous occasion with an assembly on Thursday, May 14, 2015. Seniors from the class of 2015 have been accepted to over 180 colleges and universities, and have amassed over $11 million in scholarships and grants; including 6 Gates Millennium Scholarships, 5 Posse Scholarships and 7 Greenhouse Scholarships among others awarded.

Urban Prep Academies

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30 Days of Grad: Rafael Devora

Rafael Devora received his diploma from Premier High School in May and is headed to Cisco College beginning in the fall with intentions of becoming a registered nurse. It’s a career path rooted in family history, but also in a desire to be a helping hand.

“Most of my family is in nursing and I just like to help people,” Rafael said. “It’s always been a little passion of mine, being helpful to others when they need it the most.”

When he has needed help the most, he’s been able to rely on his family for support and guidance. Whether it is his mother and his three brothers, or his grandparents, he said he’s been able to lean on family.

His family isn’t the only source of strength he has, though. There’s also Premier’s teaching staff.

“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “It starts with the teachers. They’re really kind and nice. When I’ve needed help with things, I would be able to go to the teacher and have conversations and receive as much one-on-one time as I’ve needed. I know that’s not the case in some other high schools. They can’t really focus on the one-on-one. At Premier, they give the students that attention.”

This post was adapted from an article in the Abilene Reporter-News by Timothy Chipp. Read more about Rafael’s story in the article here.

Rafael Devora | Photo credit: Nellie Doneva / Abilene Reporter-News

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30 Days of Grad: K’Von Williams

For a significant portion of his life, K’Von didn’t enjoy coming to school. He often skipped class or just walked out when he wasn’t engaged. In the traditional public school environment, K’Von found it too easy to slack off.

After enrolling at DeLaSalle Education Center, K’Von knew that he wouldn’t slip through the cracks. Thanks to the small community, supportive teachers, and intimate learning environment that the school provides, K’Von has found tremendous success and is graduating from high school despite the odds stacked against him.

“Some days you don’t like it because the teachers will get on you, but they’re just trying to push you to do more,” he said. “I’ve been to ten other public schools and none of them worked out. This is the only high school I’ve been to that I have felt comfortable with.”

Watch K’Von tell his story in this video:

DeLaSalle is an innovative high school serving students in Kansas City, MO in need of an alternative to the traditional school. It is one of the only high schools in the Kansas City metropolitan area that provides alternative education and behavior health services onsite. The school prides itself on guiding young men and women toward self-sufficiency and self-reliance, helping them define their goals and achieve their dreams.

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30 Days of Grad: Loiselle Gonzalez Baez

Loiselle Gonzalez Baez is a student at City on a Hill Charter School in Roxbury, Massachusetts and will be graduating on Thursday night. When she became pregnant last summer, she was determined to not let it get in the way of pursuing her dreams.

While raising her child, she was able to obtain a 4.17 grade point average and rise to the top of her class. She missed just 11 days of school after giving birth. This fall she will enter Wellesley College, thanks to a combination of federal and state grants, along with financial aid. She plans to become a doctor.

When the Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker asked her about the topic of her valedictory address Loiselle replied, “Having a baby!’” Her message to the class of 2015: “Don’t give up despite obstacles. Be determined. Don’t worry about people judging you and saying negative things about you.”

This post was adapted from an article in the Boston Globe by Adrian Walker. Read more about Loiselle’s story in the article here.


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30 Days of Grad: DSST

Despite rain and clouds, two DSST high schools celebrated their graduation ceremonies with pride, emotion, and excitement. DSST: Stapleton High School seniors, 100 percent of whom received four-year college acceptance for the eighth year in a row, heard a commencement speech from City Councilman, Albus Brooks. DSST Green Valley Ranch High School’s inaugural senior class also received 100 percent college acceptance, and proudly tossed their caps in the air after listening to a commencement address by Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. Congratulations to the students, parents, families, friends, and staff members that played an integral role in this achievement!


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30 Days of Grad: Great Hearts Academies

Phoebe Garvie Trained in opera for the past three years after learning piano from childhood, Phoebe Garvie, a Chandler Prep graduate, who sings fluently in multiple languages including Italian and German, recently traveled to England to audition for admittance to the Birmingham Conservatoire and the Royal Northern College of Music. Immediately following her auditions she was accepted to both conservatories on the spot and given substantial scholarships. Garvie will move to England this summer where she will attend BirmCons receiving approximately $50,000 in scholarships.

Jenna BellantoniJenna Bellantoni, graduating from the Scottsdale Campus, has been actively involved in theater, choir, improv, varsity soccer, and the mentoring program at Scottsdale Prep. Jenna won The Classical Association of the Middle West & South Commendation three years in a row, and in 2013 & 2015 she was the only Latin student in Arizona to be awarded the commendation. This year she will receive the CAMWS Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in Classical Studies. Jenna has been accepted at Johns Hopkins University, Arizona State University Barrett Honors College, Skidmore College, and Willamette University. She will attend Johns Hopkins University in the fall and is interested in double majoring in Classics and Biological Sciences (Pre-Med).

Michael PatiMichael Pati, a graduate of the Arete Prep campus has been an active member of the choir, student life team, guitar club and was co-captain of Arete’s soccer team. He was named First Team All Division this year in soccer. Michael has been a mentor throughout high school and was a lead mentor during his senior year. He was accepted to Boston College Honors Program, American University, Grinnell College and Arizona State University Barrett Honors College. Michael recently graduated Arete Prep as valedictorian and plans to attend Georgetown University in the fall where he will study at the School of Foreign Service.

Jonathan TrangJonathan Trang, a Chandler Prep graduate, is the founder of the Ulysses and Shakespeare clubs on campus, has been accepted to nine highly selective schools including: Harvard University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Brown University, Cornell University, Williams College, Amherst College, University of Chicago and Washington University. Jonathan has chosen to attend Harvard University where he plans to study English Literature and continue pursuing his passion for theater. He will graduate this month a National Merit Scholar with a 4.0 GPA.

Lucas MukaiLucas Mukai, who is graduating from the Glendale Prep campus, is an accomplished classically trained pianist and has a passion for languages. He earned a Gold Medal on the National Latin Exam and the highest honors on the National Greek Examination. Lucas, a National Hispanic Scholar, has been admitted to the University of Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins University, Catholic University, Arizona State University Barrett Honors College, and University of Dallas. Lucas has been awarded the top scholarship Kenyon College where he will attend in the fall and plans to pursue a dual degree in language and science.

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30 Days of Grad: Deisha Negron

Deisha NegronDeisha always wanted to be a hairstylist. Her mother was a hairdresser. At a young age, she had doubts about meeting her goal because she didn’t know how to read and struggled in school. In 2004 she moved from her home in Puerto Rico to Florida to live with her father, who was a strong mentor for her. Her elementary school teachers were helpful, but Deisha always felt pushed into a corner and left to sit at a computer alone. She longed to be with peers and have friendships.

It wasn’t until 6th grade that Deisha came to Pepin Academies Tampa Campus and started to improve her reading skills. She finally felt like she was at a school that understood her, and she had friends—friends that had similar struggles to the ones she faced. They were all supportive and patient with one another.

At Pepin Academies Deisha shined. She became an office assistant, was on the honor roll, served as student government vice president, and 2015 prom queen. She believes that Pepin gave her the confidence to work through her learning disability and help her bring the dream of owning her own hair salon a reality.

Deisha said working through her struggles with reading has made her a more compassionate and confident person. She hopes to mentor high school students after graduation and help them work on overcoming their own learning differences. Deisha relates well to people and wants to take classes on public speaking and speech writing. She feels it will be thrilling to channel her energy and experience into helping others overcome their obstacles, while at the same time fueling her passion to be a successful business owner one day.

On May 21 at the Pepin Academies Gala, Deisha was brought on stage to receive a scholarship worth over $15,000 to attend the Paul Mitchell Salon School in Tampa, Florida. This was made possible thanks to supportive Pepin teachers and staff; the Jason Ackerman Foundation and Paul Mitchell Salon.

Deisha will start cosmetology school in the fall and plans to have her hair salon running in no time. The Pepin Academies teachers and staff are extremely proud of her and the bright young woman she has become. Pepin Academies also extends their pride and congratulations to all of the school’s graduates for overcoming their own challenges and graduating with plans to go on to 2 and 4-year institutions, vocational programs or serve in our Armed Forces.

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30 Days of Grad: Walatowa Charter High School

Walatowa Charter High School boasts a graduation rate of 91 percent, compared to a national average graduation rate of about 50 percent for Native American students. The school’s principal, Arrow Wilkinson, calls Walatowa “the little school that could.” Students enjoy the school’s small community, which teaches Native values, culture, and the Pueblo’s traditional language.

Senior Dominique Chavez, who graduated in May, said Walatowa is the reason she earned her high school diploma, as well as 32 college credits. School hadn’t been working for her when she attended classes in both the Jemez Valley and Bernalillo school districts. At one point during those years, she was suspended for more than 100 days. “I was never at school. I was at home,” she said.”

Thanks to the efforts of Walatowa’s leaders and educators, she said, she is heading to the University of New Mexico to study nursing this August.

This post was adapted from an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican by Robert Nott. Read more about Walatowa Charter High School in the article here.

Walatowa Charter High School
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30 Days of Grad: Azianay Davis

Azianay Davis For today’s 30 Days of Grad post, we sat down with Azianay Davis, a graduate of Rauner College Prep—a campus of the high-performing Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago—to learn about her school experience and her plans for the future.

National Alliance: What makes Rauner College Prep special? Why are you proud to call it your school?

Azianay: Rauner is equipped with an amazing and dedicated team of college counselors whose goal is to make sure 100% of seniors are accepted to, and graduate from, college. Some days they work more than ten hours, staying after school to assist students with time-consuming scholarship and college applications. The small team works with over 100 seniors to help them reach their goals for college and beyond. I am proud to be a Rauner student because the staff is so devoted and passionate.

National Alliance: How has your school helped you achieve your goals?

Azianay: Rauner and its college team helped me get into my dream college, the University of Chicago, on a full-ride scholarship. I worked with my counselor, Ms. Turner, to hone my essays and submit all required materials. My other counselor, Mrs. Pinkston, also helped me with my application to become a Questbridge Scholar, and in the fall I will be a member of University of Chicago’s Questbridge branch.

National Alliance: Do you have an example of how a teacher helped you overcome a particular challenge?

Azianay: The 2014-2015 school year was the first year that Rauner offered a public speaking class. My speech teacher, Mr. Rotkvich, has pushed me all year to step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there in front of the class. His support has made me more confident inside and outside of class, and today I find myself more willing and excited to have my voice heard.

National Alliance: What are your plans for the future?

Azianay: I will attend the University of Chicago and plan on double majoring in English and Sociology.

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