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30 Days of Grad: Jalen Rose Leadership Academy

Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JLRA) celebrated its first class of graduating seniors at Detroit’s Masonic Temple Jack White Theater earlier this month. The stage was shared with some some notable names, including NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas and Detroit native Sean Anderson (a.k.a. Big Sean), but it was clear that the graduates were the stars of the show.

The school’s founder and namesake—an ESPN/ABC analyst and 13-year NBA star—congratulated the graduates at the ceremony and encouraged them to “make quality decisions and face adversity with a countenance of unwavering determination.” Rose also proudly announced that 100 percent of the inaugural graduating class has gained college, trade/technical school, or military acceptance.

Many students at JLRA received full scholarships to some of the top schools in the state. In total, the graduating class’s total amount of gift aid exceeded $2.1 million.

This post was adapted from a Detroit News Article by Ursula Watson. Read more about Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in the article here.

Jalen Rose Leadership Academy  |  Photos: Max Ortiz / The Detroit News

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30 Days of Grad: Kensington Woods Schools

Kensington Woods Schools honored 21 graduates during their commencement ceremony this year. Students were honored for their academic achievements during the ceremony as well as their demonstration of character and service throughout high school. Students also received a variety of scholarships to support their future college endeavors, totaling over $175,000. Kensington Woods High School proudly has a 100% college placement rate for all graduates and the Class of 2015 is no exception.

In her Salutatorian speech, Abigail Gamache recognized the impact Kensington Woods had on her and her peers and encouraged her peers to find happiness in their lives by being themselves. “We couldn’t have made it here to this moment right now if it wasn’t for Kensington Woods. This school is more than just your average high school. The teachers, staff, and students form a small-knit community, in which everyone strives to achieve success in every way possible.”

This post was adapted from an article in the Livingston Post. Read more about Kensington Woods Schools in the article here.

Kensington Woods Schools

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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: 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.

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30 Days of Grad: Lauren Roberge

Most high school valedictorians speak vaguely about a limitless future at this time of year, but Amesbury Academy‘s Class of 2015 valedictorian Lauren Roberge is a bit more pointed.

“My family is very excited and proud of how far I have come, especially because we didn’t think I was going to live to 18, let alone graduate at the top of my class,” Roberge said. “And I am very proud.”

An Amesbury native, Roberge came to the public charter school in her sophomore year after experiencing difficulty at Amesbury High School, according to principal Eryn Maguire. “She dealt with some pretty intense bullying,” Maguire said. “When we accepted her, we were told by the high school that she had struggled, and that we were going to be dealing with some of those struggles.”

Roberge had felt trapped, and now fully agrees with her principal and former biology teacher that the smaller class sizes at the Academy really fit the bill.

The Academy let Roberge feel comfortable enough, she said, not only to come out as gay, but to excel academically.

“I didn’t have as many opportunities to be myself,” Roberge said. “The Academy let me be who I am and accepted me for me, which is what I really needed. When I went to the Academy, I had been in a place where I didn’t think I was going to make it — not just through school, but life itself. The school definitely saved my life.”

This post was adapted from an article by the Daily News of Newburyport. Read more about Amesbury Academy and Lauren’s story in the article here.

Lauren Roberge

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30 Days of Grad: Leslie Maldonado

Leslie MaldonadoToday’s #30DaysOfGrad post comes from Leslie Maldonado, a graduate of Achievement First Amistad High School in New Haven, CT.

During my journey throughout high school, sometimes I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it. Growing up as the first person in my household to graduate from high school, the first to attend college, and the first person to graduate from college was not the path laid out for me. As the oldest of eight, I have the responsibility of creating a path for my younger siblings. Every day, I come home to find my mom furiously trying to juggle the responsibilities of raising my six younger brothers and my one-year-old sister. And as the oldest, I work after school, and sometimes I don’t return home to complete A.P. assignments until after midnight. If it wasn’t for the support system at my school, I actually don’t believe I would be where I am today.

I have made it my goal to refuse to set the wrong path for my six younger brothers and my little sister. I know statistics suggest that I can’t do it. I know that it will not be easy to continue to create a path for my younger siblings, and I know that I still do not have all the keys to open up all the doors that I need. However, I ultimately know that what matters is that at the end of my journey I will have opened doors of opportunities for all my siblings.

Helen Keller once said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision.” I have a vision. I want to be that older sister who makes her six brothers and little sister into leaders who create more leaders instead of followers.

I want to be the older sister who does not fail them. I will be that older sister. And that is why in the spring of 2019, I will be graduating from Wesleyan University.

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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.

DSST

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30 Days of Grad: Mario Arteaga

Mario Arteaga was born in McAllen, Texas, and has lived in the Rio Grande Valley his whole life. He is a graduate of IDEA Public Schools and was the President of the Student Council, member of the National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, and National Hispanic Honor Society, and Editor-in-Chief of the Yearbook. He is headed to Harvard University in the fall and plans to double major in American History and Biochemistry and then moving on to medical school. He hopes to one day become a surgeon and help save lives. When asked about what has contributed to success, Mario was quick to point out his teachers. “[They] have been a huge influence in my academic interests and have helped me discover new ideas and perspectives I never could have seen on my own,” he said. “Also, my family has been the moral support over the years and my friends have inspired me so much and always been my main source of motivation and self-improvement. It is really thanks to them that I am able to take this next step in my journey.”

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30 Days of Grad: Mastery Charter School

Students, families, even college mascots packed the Liacouras Center at Temple University for “Signing Day,” a rally for 575 seniors at Philadelphia’s five Mastery charter high schools to declare where they’ll be going to college.

Mastery CEO Scott Gordon says Signing Day is modeled after the hoopla around when a high school athlete declares. “We think an even bigger deal is when a student commits to following through on their education and going on to college and graduating college,” he said.

Khang Lam, a senior at Mastery’s Thomas campus who is heading to Drexel University, said he’s glad his school celebrates college acceptance, “Not just for certain achievement like extracurriculars, but what really matter, I feel, is academics.”

This post is adapted from a CBS Philly article written by Mike DeNardo. You can read it here.

Mastery Charter School

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30 Days of Grad: Mater Charter High School

According to a study done by the National Center for Education Statistics, about a three out of five undergraduates who are the first-generation college students complete a degree within six years. Further, 44 percent will never earn a degree. These odds paint an unwelcoming picture for students who wish to be first in their families to graduate from college. But for three students at Florida’s Mater Academy Charter School, they didn’t let the possibility of failure cloud their vision of earning a college diploma. In fact, they didn’t even wait until they received their high school diploma to earn a college degree.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald Staff

Meet Edwin Morales, Maria Saenz, and Carlos Eguiluz Rosas. They have each completed their associate’s degree while attending classes at Mater. While their reasons for hopping on the fast track to an additional diploma vary, these students all have big dreams and bright futures. Morales is bound for Brandeis University in Massachusetts with a full tuition scholarship, Saenz has received a Posse Family Foundation Scholarship and is headed to Hamilton College in New York to pursue a major in International Relations and Latino Studies, and Eguiluz Rosas is the recipient of a Gates Millennium Scholarship through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has up to 10 years of college paid for.

Read more about these graduates in this Miami Herald article that further profiles their tremendous successes. Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald Staff

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