As schools across the nation struggle with helping students regain ground lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Florida public high school dropout re-engagement program celebrated strong results and a steady stream of graduates — students who might otherwise have never earned their high school diplomas.
“Many of our students had struggled in traditional schools, or given up hope and dropped out altogether — a situation only made worse by the pandemic,” said Dr. Margie Sharp, Executive Vice President and Chief Education Officer for Acceleration Academies, which operates re-engagement programs in partnership with the public school districts in Florida’s Miami-Dade, St. Lucie, Sarasota and Escambia
Research has shown that student progress suffered when the pandemic closed school buildings and forced an abrupt shift to full- or part-time remote learning in 2020-21. According to the federal Department of Education, those losses were particularly steep for students of color, LGBTQ students and those from economically disadvantaged communities — all groups that Acceleration Academies serve with a personalized approach rather than a one-size-fits-all curriculum. While students do their coursework online, they receive one-on-one instruction at academy campuses and over Zoom. To name just a few of the students whose lives have been changed for the better:
- In Miami, Gabriel Saravia Santos was so determined to get his high school education back on track that he took 3 buses each way to learn with the help of educators at Acceleration Academies. “They were not just my teachers. They were my friends,” says the recent grad. “They showed me even when everything is going against you, it is possible.”
- In Sarasota, Adore Carter struggled with anxiety and the need to work long hours at her family’s food truck, which made traditional school impossible. At our academy, the flexible schedule and one-on-one support helped her soar. “I’m a student, not a number on the roster here,” she says. “All I have to do is look up and there’s someone there to help me.”
- In Pensacola, Latrell Gardner emerged from juvenile detention lagging behind in credits but determined to earn his diploma at our Escambia County campus rather than settle for a GED. “I didn’t want to take the easy way out.”
- In St. Lucie, Savannah Payne got support over Zoom so that she could care for an infant child who had been abandoned. Now, she declares, “I’m the first in my family to graduate.”
Acceleration Academies is a nationally accredited, research-based community and school district partner currently helping roughly 2,500 young adults overcome real-life challenges to earn their public high school diploma — at no cost to the student or school district. By offering flexible scheduling, online courses, academic and social/emotional support services with an embedded restorative practices framework, Acceleration Academies is helping young adults get back on the path toward their high school diploma in order to reach their full potential.