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30 Days of Grad: Chris Rowan

chris_rowan_demprep_WebI shouldn’t be standing here today. The odds say I should be at district high school, and if I graduate from high school I would likely be going to a community college. But that is not MY story. My story really started when I emigrated to the United States from Cameroon and was enrolled in the 6th grade.

I was born in Yaounde, Cameroon and came here when I was 12 years old. I moved to New York not knowing a word of English. This made my first years in school a challenge and made standardized testing really difficult. I worked hard with the help of my mother and family to learn English. By the end of the 6th grade I was reading at a 5th grade level. The hope for a better future is what motivated me to become educated. The American Dream.

I was lucky enough to be selected to Democracy Prep through a lottery in the 9th Grade. On my first day, I remember sitting in a classroom called Columbia, confused about what a demerit was and its implications. I questioned the fact that I was not allowed to wear the nail polish color of my choice. I was disoriented about everything involving Democracy Prep and its immense number of rules. This school was so different from anything I was used to. But coupled with my confusion was amazement. What became obvious to me as I sat in Columbia on that hot August morning, four days before any other school in New York City had even started…. I realized something that has been proven again and again over the past four years: this school is a community that will help you, heal you, pick you up when you fall and celebrate your accomplishments. In this school a common trust exists between teachers and students. This bond is far stronger than the one that I had experienced at any of my other schools. I felt this bond with all of my teachers but especially my 9th grade math teacher Mr. Jones and 10th grade math teacher Mr. Lindquist, who is in the audience tonight. These teachers are among those who have helped me survive high school. They have been through my emotional trials… and there have been a few. They have been there when I needed them. And my experience, it’s not unique. You can ask any of my classmates and each one would have a story about a teacher who has changed their lives.

My classmates and I have also created a community. We have experienced our share of joy and of discord since we became the class of 2015 on that August morning, four years ago. One thing we can agree on is that we represent a unit of individuals that have been marginalized throughout American history. We symbolize a unit of individuals who have been victimized and villainized by many. We represent a unit of individuals who are not expected to succeed. We live in a society where the odds are stacked pretty high against us. But one thing’s for sure: Democracy Prep has never allowed that to be a barrier to our success. In fact it was created in order to help prevent that from ever being our reality. With the help and guidance of Democracy Prep we have achieved great things. We have traveled across the world to Europe, South America, Asia and Africa. With the help of Democracy Prep we have been accepted to some of the best schools in the country: University of Pennsylvania, Duke, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Williams and Wesleyan to name just a few… proving to the world that we are individuals capable of excellence. Those odds? We beat them. Those stereotypes? We destroyed them.

Graduation is not the end of my story. It isn’t over until I graduate from college four years from now. Frankly, it never ends. The mission of Democracy Prep is that we are prepared for success in the college of our choice and a lifetime of active citizenship. That’s what high expectations looks like.

In a few weeks this chapter of my story, the Democracy Prep Charter High School chapter, will be ending with me graduating as one of the highest achieving scholars in my grade. I can’t wait for the next chapter of my life to begin… in Hanover, New Hampshire where, in September, I will be a freshman at Dartmouth College!

Chris Rowan is a senior at Democracy Prep Charter High School. This post is adapted from a speech she delivered at Democracy Prep’s annual gala, which you can watch below or click here.

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30 Days of Grad: Covenant House Academy Grand Rapids

The support and instruction from teachers and counselors in a safe, structured environment is helping former dropouts, homeless or otherwise at-risk youth earn a high school diploma.

Students at Covenant House Academy Grand Rapids, a year-round charter high school, have aged out of traditional school systems, been kicked out, or have underperformed for various reasons and are two or more grade levels behind.

Thirty-two seniors graduated on Tuesday, June 23, bringing the 2014-15 graduates to 55.

This post was adapted from an article by MLive. Read more about Covenant House in the article here.

Covenant House

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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: Devon Haist

Before the Anderson Five Charter School opened, Devon Haist, a student with Asperger’s syndrome, found it difficult to learn in the public school system. He changed schools several times since middle school, trying to find the school that would be just right.

Haist is following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and plans to become an engineer. While at the Anderson 5 Charter School, he took dual enrollment classes at Tri-County Technical College where he studied mechatronics. By the time he graduated high school, he also completed his first year of Tri-County, earning a certification in basic electronics. He plans to graduate next year with his associate degree.

“The public school system was very difficult for Devon,” his mother Cindy said.

Cindy Haist became an advocate for her son, and spoke to the school board when Anderson School District 5 decided to make a decision about starting a charter school in 2011.

Devon Haist found his home at the charter school, which opened in 2012, and graduated in the class of 2015. At the charter school, he was able to take classes in machine technology and robotics.

“The charter school was such a great fit for Devon,” Cindy Haist said. “I don’t know what we would have done without the school.”

Devon Haist received the Principal’s Award for overcoming great obstacles his senior year at the charter school.

“It feels pretty good having overcome everything,” Devon said.

This post was adapted from an article by The Independent Mail. Read more about Devon’s story in the article here.

Devon Haist

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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: Ellie Northrop

Today’s #30DaysOfGrad post comes from Ellie Northrop, a graduate of Career Path High in Kaysville, Utah. This was originally featured on the Getting Smart blog, and you can read the entire post here.

I started my high school career in a traditional, brick and mortar district school. By the third term of my sophomore year my attendance was at an all time low and my motivation had pretty much disappeared. With nearly 2,000 students it was difficult for teachers and other school staff to really invest their time and attention, even in those students who needed it most. I needed help finding out who I was and what I wanted to be. I was lost in a sea of other students and unmotivated to push myself further in my education. I began missing classes, and it seemed like the teachers didn’t care. I just wasn’t there and, as a result, I wasn’t able to make up the work and move on. I felt as though I had no control.

But all of that changed my junior year when I chose to enroll in Career Path High (CPH).

At Career Path High everything about the model was so different. They knew who I was and genuinely cared about my academic success. My learning path was catered to me. One difference I instantly loved so much was the great level of investment every student received from the teachers, counselor, and even the principal. High school students need personalized attention and caring and the CPH model was designed to give me that. Communication is at the forefront of everything they do. There is a high level of accountability for everyone. If I ever failed to log in to my classes for a specific period of time or I did not make progress, my teachers and Success Coach were on it! They always checked in and were willing to do what it took to keep me motivated and on track.

The flexibility of Career Path High’s blended learning model, including my online coursework, really taught me personal responsibility. During my senior year I had to balance work, school, my program, and a personal life on a very tight schedule. My average day was quite busy. It took good time management, but it has all been worth it because I am graduating with only my externships to complete for my Dental Assisting certification. I’ve already had two job offers even before graduating from high school! During my externship as a dental assistant I’ve learned how critical it is to have multitasking skills in order to be successful. I must stay on top of patient care, sanitizing tools, and assisting the front desk. My chosen career field is really fast-paced but I am able to keep up with the demands due largely to the skills learned from my education experiences at Career Path High.

I’ve come a long way from that frustrated sophomore unsure of whether or not I would even graduate. As I prepared to give my valedictorian speech for graduation, I realized that my personalized pathway made all the difference. I now have a career that I know I love, and I am pushing myself to compete and expand my potential in ways I never imagined. My high school experience definitely helped shape who I am today. Anytime someone asks how I liked my high school, I have to tell them, “It is the greatest decision I have ever made,” and it is so true. My advice, go out there and take control of your own learning pathway. Today’s students have the opportunities available to them to make their high school experience so much more.

Ellie Northrop

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30 Days of Grad: Fusion Charter School

When Anthony Griffin first arrived at Fusion Charter School, he admitted that he didn’t have any hope for graduating. Unbeknownst to him was that only a few years later he would be speaking as the 12th grade speaker in front of the the school’s first graduating class.

During his speech, Griffin spoke about his appreciation for the teachers at his school, including how they “talked to him and not at him,” the advice they gave, and most importantly, the fact that they never gave up on him. “That’s the type of school that we have. We have a school where the teachers care,” said Griffin.

Fusion Charter is an independent charter school under the partnership of Aspiranet and Turlock Unified School District. The school provides a unique educational opportunity for at-risk students in grades 7 through 12 who live in Stanislaus and Merced County, California.

This post was adapted from an article in the Turlock Journal by Alysson Aredas. Read more about Fusion Charter School in the article here.

Fusion Charter School

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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: 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

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30 Days of Grad: Jacob Reichard

Before earning his high school diploma (or getting his driver’s license), Jacob Reichard graduated from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs with a Bachelor of Innovation in Computer Security degree in May. At the end of the month, Jacob crossed the stage as salutatorian at the Colorado Springs Early Colleges charter school.

If graduating with a high school and college degree at the age of 17 wasn’t impressive enough, Jacob is continuing his efforts to help a man raise money for a kidney transplant. What started as a class project has turned into a continuing effort that has raised over $12,000 and holds a special place in Jacob’s heart. Whether it’s excelling at academics or making a positive difference in the world, it’s clear that this isn’t the last we’ll hear from this impressive charter school grad.

Learn more about Jacob’s accomplishments in this article by KRDO.

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