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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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Federal CSP Replication and Expansion Grants Now Available

Applications are now available for the FY 2015 Charter Schools Program (CSP) Grants for Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools. The program awards grants to non-profit charter management organizations that have demonstrated success in increasing student academic achievement for educationally disadvantaged students. Applicants can use grant funds to expand enrollment at an existing school or by opening a new school. Applications may also propose to use CSP funds to provide preschool education in a charter school.

In addition to the requirement that grantees serve educationally disadvantaged students, applicants may also choose to address one of the following priorities in their applications: serving high need students, promoting diversity, or identifying as a ‘novice applicant’ that has never received a replication or expansion grant. Applicants are also encouraged to describe how they will conduct rigorous evaluations of their proposed projects.

Applications are now available by request to the U.S. Department of Education. On June 16 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern, the Department is hosting a pre-application webinar for interested organizations. The final deadline to submit an application is July 15. For more information, visit the Federal Register website to view the notice posted by the Department.

To learn more about how charter schools that have received Replication and Expansion grants are making a difference in student lives, check out these stories:

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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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Riya Anandwala

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Ashley Judd to Speak at 15th Annual National Charter School Conference

Actor, activist and humanitarian Ashley Judd will address the National Charter Schools Conference general session in New Orleans on Monday, June 22.

Actor, activist and humanitarian Ashley Judd will address the National Charter Schools Conference general session in New Orleans on Monday, June 22. Best known for her performances in Ruby in Paradise, Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy, De-Lovely and most recently the Divergent franchise, Judd is a longstanding advocate and supporter of education.

 A devoted humanitarian, Judd is committed to telling personal stories and being the voice of the underprivileged locally as well as internationally. Her remarks at National Alliance’s conference will focus on the power of political activism and the ability of education to empower young people and defy poverty – two principles closely aligned with the charter schools movement.

The National Charter Schools Conference, which runs from June 21-24, is the largest annual gathering of charter school teachers, leaders, administrators, board members and advocates from across the country. The two and a half day event will provide keynote sessions, breakout sessions, and numerous networking opportunities for more than 4,500 charter school professionals and policymakers.

For conference agenda details, visit http://www.publiccharters.org/involved/conference-2015/schedule/

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Riya Anandwala

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Hall of Fame 2015

The National Alliance has announced its 2015 Hall of Fame Inductees: Senator Mary Landrieu, Nelson Smith and Dr. Deborah McGriff.

Mary LandrieuFormer Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu spent 35 years in public service, demonstrating her passionate commitment to children and families as a Louisiana state legislator, state treasurer and U.S. senator.
Nelson SmithNelson Smith is senior advisor to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. From 2004 to 2011 he was president and CEO and then senior advisor to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Deborah McGriffDeborah M. McGriff is a managing partner with NewSchools Venture Fund where she focuses on closing the demographic gap between students, executive leaders and governing boards.

These individuals are being recognized for their pioneering efforts in the growth of charter schools, their long-term commitment and contributions to charter schools, and their innovative ideas and successful implementation of those ideas.

Congratulations to our new inductees! We are grateful for their contributions to the growth of effective, high-quality public charter schools that now serve nearly three million students.

Riya Anandwala

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Study: Charter School Students in LA Report Higher Graduation Rates, SAT Scores

According to a new study by the California Policy Center, Los Angeles Unified School District’s charter high schools perform significantly better than the district’s traditionally operated public schools, despite receiving a lower per student funding amount.

This report offers more evidence about the positive impact of charter schools on students, communities and the public education system. Specifically, the study found charter students had higher performance rates on three counts:

Academic Performance Index scores: 762 vs. 701

Graduation rates: 92 percent vs. 84 percent

Normalized SAT scores: 1417 vs. 1299

Just last month during National Charter Schools Week, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released a report that profiles ten big cities with a large wait list of student names to attend charter schools. Los Angeles has the second largest wait list with more than 68,000 students. The wait list numbers – which are over a million nationwide – along with strong academic performance is case in point for the need of additional federal money to help start new charter schools, especially in cities where the wait lists are in the tens of thousands.

This study is an excellent showcase of what charter schools are achieving in one of the biggest cities in the nation, and a reminder that a one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work for every family. There are thousands of students who could benefit from a charter school education and accomplish the kind of academic excellence that prepares them for a solid college career.

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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: 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: 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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