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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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30 Days of Grad: Pedro Viera

When Pedro began in 6th grade, he remembers wanting to quit. “I didn’t really want to go because it was strict and I had to get up early and ride the bus across town. But my mom and Mr. Gilbert really motivated me to stay.”

Pedro was, in many ways, a very typical middle school student. He got caught up in the wrong crowd of kids and found himself getting into trouble…a lot. What is less typical is that Pedro was able to push himself forward and turn things around.

He points to many teachers he built strong relationships with that helped him along the way. Sean De Luna, his 9th grade social studies teacher, stands out to him as the one who introduced him to social justice and taught him that anyone can make it, no matter his or her race or background. Jonathan Tomick and Sarah Hampson, two of his high school English teachers, also gave him a large amount of support.

“Mr. Tomick was a very positive guy. He saw things in a very different perspective and a lot of things he said really impacted me. And Ms. Hampson just always kept pushing me and supporting me. I wish everyone had a chance to have someone like her in their life.”

“I would tell other students to build relationships with their teachers. That makes a big difference. When you need help, they’re there for you and they have a lot of opportunities for you.”

Pedro will be attending Houston Community College to complete some basic coursework and plans on becoming an electrician or a welder. But long term, he wants to transfer to a four-year college and possibly become a teacher. “It would be great to have the opportunity to work at YES Prep,” he added.

“I want to show people I can do it. People talk a lot and I want to prove them wrong. I want to show the community that anyone can do it, that I can do it. I just don’t want to stop here. I want to keep pushing forward.”

Pedro Viera graduated from YES Prep East End, part of the YES Prep charter school system based in Houston, TX, that serves about 10,000 students across 15 campuses in grade 6-12.

Pedro Viera

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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: Ria Cheruvu

Ria Cheruvu lives a normal life like many of her neighborhood friends and classmates at Arizona Connections Academy. The 11-year-old enjoys playing golf, piano, writing poetry, discussing books, taking field trips and just hanging out with her friends.

However, while most of her friends are preparing for the upcoming rigors of junior high, Ria is getting ready for an experience that will drastically differ from seventh or eighth grade. Ria is set to graduate… from high school.

The next stop for this gifted student is Arizona State University in the fall where she will mingle with college students nearly double her age.

Unlike most college freshmen that are unsure about a major, Chevuru knows exactly what she wants to study: neural cryptography, a study of neuroscience, which involves the study of the brain and mind cryptography, which is coding.

Read more about Ria on the Arizona Charter Schools Association blog here.

Ria Cheruvu - Arizona Connections Academy

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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: 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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Nina Rees


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5 Reasons To Be Optimistic About Education

(Originally published by U.S. News & World Report)

Though it’s easy to get lost in the myriad of negative stories and feuds swirling around American education, as we approach Thanksgiving I’d like to pause and reflect on all the positive trends impacting our education system and students. Here are my top 5 reasons for being optimistic…Read more here.

Kim McCabe


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5 reasons to support charters schools in 2014

Right now, members of Congress are deciding how to spend money for the upcoming fiscal year and we need to make sure they know that public charter schools are a priority. That’s why we’re asking you to contact your members of Congress, tell them that the federal Charter Schools program is important to you.  Need some motivation? Here are my top five reasons to support public charter schools in 2014:

  1. Growth. The federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) has helped open more than 90 percent of new charter schools in the past five years. There are now more than 2.5 million students attending nearly 6,500 schools.
  2.  Innovation. Public charter schools have the freedom to find new and creative solutions to meet the unique needs of the students in their communities. In Santa Ana, California that means students at El Sol Science and Arts Academy can learn easier through a dual language immersion curriculum. In Wichita, Kansas agriculture is incorporated into the curriculum at the Walton Rural Life Center.
  3.  Academic Performance. Fifteen out of 16 independent studies published since 2010, four national studies and 10 regional studies all found positive academic performance results for students in charter schools compared to their traditional school peers. Last year, CREDO released a study that found that a charter school education had a positive impact for many subgroups, including Black students, students in poverty, English Language Learners (ELL), and students in Special Education. For ELL Hispanic students, attending a charter school resulted in 50 additional days of learning in reading and 43 additional days of learning in math.
  4. Geographic Reach.The federal Charter Schools Program serves students in all educational settings–55 percent of the nation’s charters are in urban areas, 21 percent in suburban, and 16 percent in rural. Public charter schools serve a high percentage of students in a diverse array of cities including large cities such as New Orleans and Detroit as well as rural Hall County, Ga.
  5. Demand. Across the nation,public charter school waitlists approached one million names during the 2012-2013 school year. Families looking for options within the public school system are turning to public charter schools to find the best fit for their child’s education, but without additional funds charter schools are unable to meet parental demand.

Now it’s your turn–why do YOU support public charter schools?


Kim Kober is the coordinator for government relations and federal policy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.