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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.

Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: Read the stories of these remarkable @GreatHeartsAcad grads in today’s post from @charteralliance: #30DaysofGrad

View more #30DaysOfGrad stories here.


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High School Winner – National Charter Schools Week Essay Contest

Leila from Western Sierra Collegiate Academy in California won the high school category of the 2015 Charter Schools Week essay contest! Read about why she loves her charter school: 

As people become increasingly aware of the unique learning systems offered by non-traditional institutions, the amount of students enrolled in charter schools continues to grow. Parents nationwide choose to enroll their children in charter schools for a variety of reasons; however, I love my charter school because of its welcoming campus culture, wealth of student opportunities, and heavy emphasis on college preparation.

At Western Sierra Collegiate Academy (WSCA), students are immersed in a rich campus culture that fosters great individual learning and growth. Enjoying high student diversity, WSCA is home to students from many different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Whereas diversity has sometimes led to social issues at other schools, at WSCA it is these very cultural differences that make us a stronger and more unified student body. Having attended WSCA for four years, I have definitely been on campus long enough to say that the people at my school truly feel like family. I am extremely grateful to have been able to thrive in an environment that not only respects but wholeheartedly welcomes individuality. When I go to school, I see students who are unafraid to be themselves and express their opinions, and I believe that WSCA’s positive campus culture is what makes this possible.

In addition to fostering a rich social environment, WSCA also offers numerous student opportunities unavailable at other schools. Because of WSCA’s open-minded mission statement, students have the rare chance to participate in competitions on a smaller-scale, potentially opening up doors for the future. Kids are also encouraged to start clubs according to their interests. Because of this, I have been able to found and lead my high school’s community service club and gain valuable leadership skills. Other clubs supported by WSCA include: computer club, international dance club, yoga club, and Pokemon club. Students also have access to extra-learning enrichment sessions and student tutoring should they need any further help in a specific area.

Finally, perhaps WSCA’s most defining quality is the emphasis that is placed on college preparedness. Students are encouraged to challenge themselves with rigorous AP classes and regularly attend the monthly college informational night to learn how to build college transcripts and start early preparations. At the College and Career Center, students can arrange a meeting with the college counselor to discuss future plans and make long-term goals for success. Whenever a senior receives a college acceptance letter, their name and school of acceptance goes on display on the big bulletin board so everyone can share their excitement. Counselors and faculty interact with students on such a personal level (often waving “hello” in the hallways, or asking about their day) that genuinely makes each student feel valued and important.

Western Sierra Collegiate Academy is truly a special school, and I love being a WSCA student for many reasons. However, although the list of WSCA pros is vast, without a doubt, its rich campus culture, broad range of student opportunities, and college-geared mission are primary reasons to love my charter school.


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Operationalizing Systems to Build Better Boards

One of my favorite events of the year is the National Charter Schools Conference. Where and when else do thousands of charter school community members from across the country come together to learn, collaborate, and celebrate? This year’s conference will be especially awesome because it will be in New Orleans—a resilient and innovative city that epitomizes culture, music, and culinary genius. To accentuate the liveliness of the city, NCSC 2015 will kick off with a Mardi Gras welcome reception parade!

As a program committee member, I had the tough role of helping to shape the conference content. This was a challenging process and highly competitive, but the results include an excellent collection of sessions that will elevate the discourse about charter school governance. While the entire Governance line-up will offer thought-provoking and relevant information, I’m specifically thrilled for two sessions that I know I will attend.

In Paradise by the Dashboard Lights: How to Build and Use Academic Dashboards, Simmons Lettre and Carrie Irvin from Charter Board Partners and Susannah Staats from KIPP Foundation will share their unique insights on how to create academic dashboards and monitor progress from a high level. Board members and school leaders will use sample academic dashboards and role-playing to learn how boards can use dashboards effectively without stepping on school leaders’ toes.

In Beyond the Revolving Door: Institutionalizing Board Mindset, Jennifer Dauzvardis from Peak to Peak Charter School is going to make the case for why boards must create systems to manage knowledge over time. She realizes that maintaining quality governance requires institutionalized systems for developing board members, implementing effective governance practices, and interpreting board-level data. Participants in this session will explore strategies and identify solutions to promote appropriate board engagement and processes for board decision-making.

We are each on a journey towards continuous improvement. Just like the students we serve, we should invest in our development through learning opportunities such as NCSC 2015. I’m excited to see you in the Crescent City from June 21-24!


Makiyah Moody is the Governance Initiatives Director, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools and Co-Chair of the 2015 National Charter Schools Conference Program Committee


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Middle School Winner – National Charter Schools Week Essay Contest

Omara from Community Day Charter Public School in Massachusetts won the middle school category of the 2015 Charter Schools Week essay contest! Read about why she loves her charter school: 

I entered Community Day Charter Public School (CDCPS) eight years ago as a kindergartener similar to how many of my peers did–very quiet and very nervous. I was extremely introverted and liked to keep things to myself. Through the many grades I have grown to be a much more outspoken student who isn’t afraid of raising her hand and voicing her opinion in all her classes. I achieved this with the help the amazing adults and classmates who have taught me so many academic and life lessons during my years at CDCPS. Looking back now as an 8th grader, I couldn’t imagine myself in any other school doing the things I’m doing. Each day that I go to the charter, I’m pushed to be the best version of myself. I am encouraged to go “above and beyond” by all my teachers in every subject and on every assignment. This year in English class, we are reading one of Shakespeare’s plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The language is difficult and many of my peers and I struggle to understand some sections, but we are given the opportunity to break down words and phrases and comprehend. In math class, we are learning algebra, and in science we learn about chemical reactions through experimentation. This challenging work gives students a feeling of self-pride. We the Students are taught to make goals for ourselves and try to not only complete them but surpass them every school year.

At our charter school every single student is cared for and supported–nobody is left behind. The teachers at CDCPS get to know all of their students and recognize each individual’s strength and weaknesses. They bring their best to all of their lessons and have high expectations, which, in turn, motivates students to want to learn more and meet those high standards.

Not only does CDCPS guide students to a road of academic success, it also develops students into people with good character for life outside of school. We learned from the start of our schooling career to be kind to one another and always give back to our community. As a whole school we have done many service projects like can drives, coin wars, and clean-ups. Each project helped us mature and acknowledge how grateful we really are. The life lessons and skills that have been a part of us since first grade and stayed with us up through eighth grade will come in handy when we step away from our charter school and enter a new environment where we can make the difference. CDCPS develops well-rounded students who stand out in large crowds for their leadership abilities.

Community Day Charter Public School is a community of children, teachers, and parents who work together to support the finest hard-working, dedicated students in Lawrence, Massachusetts, if not in our entire state or nation. I am honored to have been given the chance to be a part of the great academic and character-driven community that is CDCPS.


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Elementary School Winner – National Charter Schools Week Essay Contest

Lydia from Riverview Charter School in South Carolina won the elementary school category of the 2015 Charter Schools Week essay contest! Read about why she loves her charter school: 

Have you ever taken the time to think about why you love your school? I love my school in many different ways. Those ways are the teachers, field trips, school plays, and specials. In this essay, you will read about why I love my school so much.

First of all, I love my school because all of the teachers have amazing personalities and backgrounds. For instance, Mr. Malijenovsky is from France and now he teaches in America. Mr. Good is totally hilarious and he is always really kind. Next, the teachers teach us in awesome ways. They act out what we’re learning and they sometimes do funny voices! Lastly, they are all so different. Mr. Bridge loves sports and Mrs. Duffy loves animals.

Second of all, I love the field trips. They help us understand learning 10 times more! They make learning really exciting and enjoyable. There is a lot of hands on learning so we can touch interesting animals and such. Field trips are especially exciting when we get to go to Barrier Island in the second grade, Washington D.C. in the fifth grade, and Costa Rice in eighth grade!

Next, I love my school because we do school plays. Everybody gets a change to have a main role and lines. I especially like the plays because they are based on what we’re learning in class. They especially help us remember all of the information we need to know. The plays are awesome!

Last but not least, I love my school because we have specials. The specials are P.E., art, music, Spanish, French, technology, and drama. We get to play cool and boisterous sports and games! In music we have concerts, drum battles, and do singing contests girls versus boys. P.E. and music are two of my favorite specials. That is the last reason why I love my school.

Now you know that I love my school because of the teachers, field trips, school plays, and specials. One day you should visit my school, Riverview Charter School.


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Thoughtful, Committed Citizens

Attending the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference each year has become a priority for the leadership at our K-12 charter school in Boulder County, Colorado. We have found that these three days in the summer allow our leadership team to spend extended, focused time together reflecting on issues of key importance to our organization. This year’s conference in New Orleans will be our fourth, and because of the wide variety of sessions and speakers featured each year, we continue to add to the list of staff members who attend.  

The conference serves many purposes for our school. The opportunity to participate in conversations about national charter schools legislation and funding always leads to deeper, more nuanced discussions of what’s happening in our own state. Workshop sessions targeting the challenges and opportunities unique to charter schools have enhanced and informed decisions we’ve made with regard to technology, teacher evaluation, media relations, and communication, to name a few. At the same time, the chance for us to share our own experiences and expertise by facilitating breakout sessions helps raise our school’s profile and leads to expanded networking and relationship building with other charter leaders around the country. Finally, the conference consistently features speakers doing critical work on the cutting edge of education, charter or otherwise. Their keynote addresses inspire important conversations among our school’s leadership team and between charter leaders across our state and across the nation.

Being part of the charter school movement means being part of a solution to the many troubled aspects of education. It means creative problem solving and innovating against all odds. It means coming to the table with an open mindset and the knowledge that Margaret Mead was right when she said that it only takes “a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens to change the world.” Attending the National Charter Schools Conference each year reunites and reinvigorates that small group of committed citizens, which is why it is and will continue to be an important priority for the leaders of our school.


Megan Freeman directs the Center for Professional Development at Peak to Peak Charter School. She leads workshops in best practices and consults with schools and universities throughout the state of Colorado.  She can be reached at


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30 Days of Grad: Laura Garcia

Laura GarciaLaura Garcia started as a fourth grader at Aspire. She found a school that encouraged students to dream big, think about college and start planning immediately. For Laura, it was a welcomed message. Since Laura’s first school day, her goal has been to be the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

“Unlike regular public schools, Aspire has pushed its students to be the best in whatever they do. It was not until my first school-wide town hall meeting – where we all chanted, ‘dream it; believe it; achieve it!’ – that I realized how fortunate I was to attend a school that infinitely believed in all their students,” said Laura.

It was people like Mr. Lomas, who teaches sixth-grade English, who really inspired Laura. Mr. Lomas would talk about his side gig of acting and his own dreams. After this introduction into the entertainment world, Laura has discovered his passion. This fall, Laura will be attending Cal State Northridge to study arts and entertainment management as well as theater.

“If I did not grow up attending Aspire Public Schools, I would not be the passionate, driven individual I am today,” said Laura.

Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: This @aspire grad wanted to be 1st in her family to earn a college degree. Now she’s making it happen: #30DaysOfGrad

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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.

Share this story! Click the following link to launch and edit in Twitter: Learn why this grad is proud to call @BeNoble her alma mater in the latest post by @charteralliance: #30DaysOfGrad

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30 Days of Grad: 21st Century Charter School

Joseph Harris stood in his cap and gown Saturday afternoon and hugged his father as tears streamed down both of their cheeks.

“I’m going to the Army June 23,” Harris said. “I’m not going to have much time with anyone before then.”

Harris was among the 30 graduates of 21st Century Charter School in Gary. His father, Jean Harris, said the teen held down two jobs while earning his diploma. “It was a rough journey,” mother Joyce Harris said. “We stayed on him to make sure he got his education.”

Many graduates spoke of 21st Century Charter School as a family. “Today is a day of family because the way I see it, my class is family,” graduate Anthony Benion said. “We fought… but we love each other. [Our relationships] are forever and I’m happy to call each of them my family.”

This post was adapted from an article by The Times. Read more about Century Charter School in the article here.

Lauren Roberge

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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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