Khadidja Diouf, a graduating senior at Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), has a 3.37 GPA and will enroll in West Virginia University this fall, fulfilling the school’s mantra, “We’re going to college." Khadidja—the first in her family to attend college— plans to major in supply chain management and logistics, a field she was introduced to at a DECA career fair.
Khadidja began her education at DECA in middle school, and though it was six long years ago, she still remembers how the required summer initiation to the middle school program acclimated her to the school and set the tone for what would be expected in the fall. “We went to August academy,” she said, noting that homework was mandatory and due dates were strictly enforced. At the time, Khadidja said that she didn’t see the point of some of DECA’s requirements and its emphasis on independent study and homework. At first, I thought it was to keep us busy,” she said. “But now I see everything had a purpose.” She also appreciates how she has learned to puzzle through challenges. Pointing to her physics teacher, she said, “He doesn’t help you. He lets you struggle.”
In addition to her rigorous academic schedule, mock trial and Junior ROTC play a big role in Khadidja’s life. Though DECA is too small to qualify for a Junior ROTC charter, the school has formed its own unit lead by a retired Army Major. When the program was at risk of being disbanded for lack of funding, Khadidja almost “single-handedly” saved it. She led a group of friends in writing a proposal to turn the class into an extracurricular activity. Her intense focus is apparent during mock trial competitions as well. At a recent state competition, the DECA students, some outfitted in suits they had bought at a second-hand store, knew they were competing against others from more privileged backgrounds. That fact was never lost on the kids, least of all Khadidja, whose single mother said she works part-time at a dollar store because she wants to be available to get her two teenage daughters to and from school and to extracurricular activities. Rather than feel put down by some of the other teams’ arrogant attitudes, Khadidja used that as fuel—impressing the judges to the point one came down and commented, “It was hard for me not to think that you have already graduated from law school.”
As Khadidja’s mom reflects on the decision to send her to DECA, she never doubted her daughter’s success, beaming, “She has in her mind that she can do anything.”
This month, thousands of high school students will graduate from charter schools across the county. We are so impressed by everything that these students have accomplished and can’t wait to see what the future holds. Check back here every day to see a new charter school graduate in our 30 Days of Grad series. Want to share your story? Join the conversation using #30DaysOfGrad.