This month, beginning with National Charter Schools Week, we will feature stories from charter school graduates from across the country. Check back every day to see a new student feature in our 30 Days of Grad series.
Right before the financial crisis decimated the global economy, I was failing my freshman year of high school. Throughout my education, I excelled in the humanities, but struggled in math and science, always needing extra help in class, and earned average scores on state tests. But in the fall of 2007, I wasn’t just struggling; I was drowning. My report card was riddled with Ds and Fs as health problems afflicted my father and my mother began to feel the weight and eventual collapse of the housing market. Being a teenager and battling bullies is hard enough, but I wouldn’t have been able to handle what was coming for me if I hadn’t made a change from my district public school education to a charter school.
Enter the Arts and College Preparatory Academy (ACPA). I needed the slightly altered class times that the ACPA offered, from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., because I worked as a waitress at a local restaurant until 10 p.m. most weeknights. I needed the counseling they provided me when my father eventually died from his health complications. I cherish the kindness expressed by the founder of my school, Gee Gee Howard, who gave me a place to stay when stable housing became an issue. My math teacher, Tony Gatto, now ACPA’s principal, gave me the confidence, care, and attention that I needed to succeed in math. And all of the staff and faculty at ACPA gave me the permission, patience, and flexibility necessary to approach and arrange my junior and senior years so that when I was ready, I could fly.
At 16, I received tens of thousands in scholarship money from my top university choice because ACPA gave me the college counseling I needed to apply. At barely 17, I graduated school and procured the work study and federal loans I needed for Capital University in Columbus, where I could live on campus while still generating my own critical income. When I graduated Magna Cum Laude four years later at 21, I headed straight into a master’s program at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Today, I work full-time in media in New York City, where I'm also working on completing my first novel.
My story is one of success because the charter school educators and change makers around me championed me, inspired me, pushed me, and listened to me. They believed in me and catered to my needs at a time when I needed leadership and guidance from them most, like so many students do. It’s not a stretch to say I wouldn’t be here if not for ACPA; it created a strong foundation for my education, my confidence in myself, and my own abilities, and made it clear how important it is for students to have the resources and support they need in and out of the classroom. I am better in every way because of it.