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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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30 Days of Grad: ASU Preparatory Academy

ASU Preparatory Academy is celebrating its first class of graduates this year. The school, which is operated by Arizona State University, opened a campus in downtown Phoenix as a middle school in 2008 and has since expanded to include grades K-12.

The school’s first graduating class of 131 students received their diplomas on May 28, and earned a total of $2 million in college scholarships. When asked about what it meant to be a part of the first class of graduates, the school’s valedictorian Dwayne Martin said that he is “proud and humbled.” “I hope that I can be an example for all of the classes to come,” he said.

All of the graduates will either go to college or into military service. In all, 76 percent of the graduates were accepted to four-year institutions.

Read more about these graduates and their alma mater in this AZCentral article that further profiles their tremendous successes.

ASU Preparatory Academy

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30 Days of Grad: Carlos Rosario Charter School

Over the past 40 plus years, the Carlos Rosario School in Washington, D.C. has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of immigrants by investing in and supporting their journey to achieve the American Dream. The school combines award-winning education, life skills programs, and support services to create a holistic experience. Learn about three of their graduates this year below:

Victor

Victor is a current culinary arts career training academy student planning to graduate next month. Victor, originally from El Salvador, started at the school in 2012 with a basic level of English. He has since received his food handler’s license, has taken five semesters of English, and will graduate from the school’s culinary arts program. Victor was recently promoted to head chef at Commissary restaurant in D.C. where he is putting his skills to work every day in the kitchen.

Victor

Gloria is from El Salvador and arrived to Washington, D.C. in 1991. She first started school in 1992 at Carlos Rosario, known then as Gordon School. When her six-year-old daughter arrived from El Salvador, Gloria was faced with many responsibilities and she couldn’t attend school. In 2003 she returned to Carlos Rosario and studied Workplace Computers and she earned her citizenship in 2006, thanks in part to assistance she received through the school’s citizenship program. This past fall Gloria completed our highest level of English and will be crossing the stage with her classmates at graduation.

Victor

Nicodeme came to the U.S. from Cameroon to reunite with his mother and siblings, and pursue his dreams. Since primary school, he decided that he would become a doctor and achieve the highest level of education. “My main aim is to become a great and respected person. I want to walk around and have people say ‘that’s Nicodeme,’” he says. With his goals in mind, he started taking English and GED classes at the Carlos Rosario School. In a little over two years, he finished from the school’s highest ESL level. He will be graduating this spring from the GED program with his high school diploma equivalent. With the GED under his belt, he hopes to start a pre-med program at a local university, and become a doctor by the age of 27.

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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: 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: 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: 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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Finding the Right Fit

My mother has always expressed to me that she only wants “what’s best” for me, and this is where my charter school story begins. At 14, I had been attending the same public school for eight years, yet I was unfamiliar with most teachers and students. I often felt invisible, especially during the times where I needed help, and I never knew who to talk to. I didn’t feel comfortable expressing my needs. My mother knew there were better choices for me, places where I could thrive academically and socially.

We found that choice in Perspectives Charter School.

Attending Perspectives was the first time I had ever felt comfortable in school. It was smaller, there were students of many different ethnicities, and everyone took pride in wearing their uniforms. The teachers were dedicated – they seemed to care about my learning experience, made sure I stayed on track, and provided additional help whenever it was needed.

The school taught the importance of self-perception, relationships, and productivity, which gave me the tools to lead a productive and successful life. By senior year, I had participated in two business internships, excelled in my classwork and I was accepted to every college I applied to.

After college, I joined NACSA because I believe every child deserves to receive a quality education. I love working alongside colleagues who are also driven by this belief, and who believe in producing A-level work and setting high bars for everyone’s performance – including their own. It feels great to be part of a team working to ensure students like me will have access to choices that work for them. Choices like Perspectives.

 

Brittany Brown is the Communications Associate for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Her blog post originally appeared on the Chartering Quality blog.

Nora Kern

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The Debate on Charter School Applications

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) recently release a report, The Paperwork Pileup, that analyzed the various questions and documentation required of public charter schools seeking authorization by state education agencies, higher education institutions, and independent charter boards. The report authors categorized the application questions into four quadrants according to the (in)appropriateness and (un)manageability of the requirement in terms of how the questions could impact school effectiveness. In short, AEI concludes that, “By larding up charter applications and branding those who do not want to or cannot jump through those hoops as not serious or qualified enough to run schools, we risk unjustly narrowing the pool of charter operators and shutting out innovation.”

Common sense says that paperwork for paperwork’s sake is unnecessary, but due diligence to ensure quality is necessary. Yet, the debate opens from there. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and Thomas B. Fordham Institute both issued rebuttals to assertions made in the AEI report. So where do you fall on the authorizing debate? Are regulations overtaking autonomy, or are they necessary gatekeepers to ensure quality school openings? Thanks to AEI for elevating this important conversation, and to NACSA and Fordham for weighing in. Please leave a comment to tell us your thoughts on charter school application requirements.

Nora Kern is senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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Increase in Charter School Enrollment According to 2015 Condition of Education

According to the newly released 2015 Condition of Education from the National Center for Education Statistics, the education landscape is shifting. Caitlin Emma and her team at Politico write today that there is a steady growth in charter schools since 1999.

“Since the 1999-2000 school year, the number of charter schools has grown about 300 percent. There were about 6,100 charters in the 2012-13 school year, vs. about 1,500 in ‘99. Over the same time, the proportion of small charter schools has shrunk. Back then, the overwhelming majority of charters had fewer than 300 students; now, it’s only about half. About half of all charters used to be dominated by white students; that’s changed too: Now the student body at only about a third of charters is majority white. More than half of all charters are based in cities, and more than two-thirds are located in the South or West.”

For more data about the prevalence of charter schools, readers can check out our Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools & Students from February 2015 or a state-by-state analysis of the Health of the Charter School Movement from last fall.