These are profiles of students who overcame significant life challenges to complete their education and earn a high school diploma as a member of the Class of 2017 from an EdisonLearning network school.
Carl Velez: Chicago Brainerd Bridgescape Graduate
Carl Velez came to Englewood Bridgescape Academy (later transferred to Brainerd) from a traditional Chicago high school because he felt disconnected and the discipline structure was too harsh. He was about to drop out but he learned about Bridgescape from a close friend.
At Bridgescape, Carl felt at “home”. The teachers wanted him to be there, and they showed him that they had a personal investment in his future. Carl liked the structure of the program, as it allowed him to focus on one class at a time; and appreciated that teachers were always available to support him through one-on-one tutoring and in small group instruction.
The Bridgescape team consistently inspired him and encouraged him to persevere, knowing that he was a caregiver to his mother who faced a major health challenge. Due to the challenges he faced, more than once, Carl wanted to give up and drop out.
Yet, as he said, “Ms. Battle pushed me every day to work hard. When she showed me that she cared, it made me want to come to school every day”. Carl made a promise to his mother that he would finish high school. Sadly, Carl’s mother passed right before Mother’s Day.
As an extra incentive and encouragement, Mr. Ernest Williams, Program/Student Success Director, promised to buy Carl’s tux for the prom. With all that was going on he did not even think that he was able to go to prom.
In order to complete his course work, Carl worked at school during the day and from home in the evening. A few weeks before graduation, Carl successfully finished all of his course work and graduation requirements. He was able to finally relax and enjoy his senior prom.
As he walked across the stage at commencement, as an “Achievement Award” winner, Carl realized that he had fulfilled the promise to his mother. He knew that his mother was embracing him, and proud of him.
Carl is truly thankful for the commitment to his education shown by the entire Bridgescape team. Carl plans to work this summer and enroll in a post-secondary program this coming fall.
Going forward, the teachers and staff at the Brainerd Bridgescape look to remain connected with Carl, and to ensure that he is supported throughout his future educational endeavors.
Mariah Gonzalez: Chicago Humboldt Park Bridgescape Graduate
Mariah Gonzalez had been a student at the Bridgescape Learning Academy Humboldt Park campus for nearly 3 years. She was classified as a sophomore at the end of last year. This year, however, Mariah came with a change of heart, and a new sense of purpose and commitment to her education. She set a goal for herself to graduate by her 18th birthday. She also wrote herself a letter, and recited the letter to the staff and students on a regular basis to share with them her rededication to learning and achieving. Most obvious of all, Mariah started attending both morning and afternoon sessions. Finding a Spanish class extremely difficult, Mariah would go into the hallway to record her lessons daily. At that time, she would past by the program director’s office and reminded the PD of her goal. She was determined, dedicated and unstoppable.
Mariah’s hard work and perseverance paid off when she was presented her high diploma on June 13, and was awarded $60,000 in scholarships to continue her educational journey. In addition to achieving her own goal, Mariah served as a model for other students, by proving to them that every student can learn and succeed.
The Florida State Department of Education has released its 2016-17 ratings for all of the public schools in the state, and five of the six EdisonLearning/Mavericks schools received the highest or mid-range ratings.
Unlike many other states, Florida law provides specific school improvement ratings for alternative schools that provide dropout prevention and academic intervention services. Instead of a standard letter grade, alternative schools may elect to receive a school improvement rating in lieu of a grade. The school improvement rating identifies schools as having one of the following ratings defined according to rules of the State Board of Education: “Commendable”, “Improving”, “Maintaining”, “Declining”, and “Unsatisfactory”.
The school improvement ratings are based on learning gains comparisons between the current and prior year. The percentage of students making learning gains at the school are compared to the percentage of students (from the same population) making learning gains in the prior year.
Andrews High School in Pompano Beach, Chambers High School in Homestead, and Main Street High School in Kissimmee all received the highest rating of “Commendable”. Mavericks High in North Miami, and Mavericks High in Palm Springs both received a rating of “Maintaining”.
Throughout EdisonLearning’s school network, there were 11 Graduation Ceremonies over the past month, representing 14 schools, and more than 1,000 high school diplomas were awarded. Congratulations to all of the members of the Class of 2017.
EdisonLearning Alternative Learning Programs Have Now Produced More Than 2,500 High School Graduates
Since EdisonLearning opened Bridgescape Academies in Ohio in 2011; the company’s alternative learning program has grown and resulted in more than 2,500 students earning their high school diplomas in six states.
Just as important as the total number of graduates, has been the progressive rise in the overall yearly graduation rate.
The 10 Graduation events, which will conclude this weekend in Dayton, have awarded 639 high school diplomas (nearly double previous year numbers) in Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, as well at six locations in Florida.
As was stated in 2011, when the Bridgescape program was created:
“With the number one predictor of success in life being a high school diploma, EdisonLearning is accelerating its efforts to provide an effective and personalized program for those students who want to graduate from high school. The leading international educational solutions provider’s Bridgescape Dropout Recovery and Prevention Centers will provide at-risk and recently dropped-out high school students the chance to earn diplomas.”
Six years later, it is clear that the company is “advancing our belief that every student – given the right tools, support and environment – is capable of exceeding their expectations, and complete their high school education, giving them the ability to continue onto college, attend vocational school, or enter the workforce.”
On Friday, June 2, the 201 graduates of Main Street High/Mavericks in Kissimmee, FL; as well as family, and friends were the beneficiaries of a powerful and inspirational address by school alum – Christian Sanchez. His candid assessment of his life, prior to attending Main Street High, and how he has influenced by the school’s teachers and staff, is a strong testament to the work being done in Florida, and in all of our Bridgescape Academies.
The following is the text of Christian’s remarks to the graduates.
When I arrived at Main Street High, my life changed. I went from being a lost, punk kid, to a young man with hope for a successful and happy future. I grew up being labeled a troublemaker, being told I’d never succeed. But I’ve learned that nothing is impossible and that God has a purpose for each of our lives.
As a young teenager, I used to roam around Kissimmee with groups of friends, doing nothing productive, wondering what my purpose in life was. I first arrived at this school with a 1.8 GPA, 8 or 9 credits, and even a criminal background. I was 15 years old . . . My previous school asked me to leave, because of a pending felony charge. I was a depressed teenager and I felt like a failure, like a lost cause—I felt like a reject.
But then something happened… I came to Main Street High looking for a second chance at life. I had recently given my life to Christ at the age of 15, and I was determined to prove the world wrong, that I was no longer a lost cause—and that even a punk kid like me, with a bit of low self-esteem and a weird personality; even a punk kid like me could become a world changer, so help me God. And Main Street High did give me a second chance.
Main Street High is unique. This school gave me a clean slate and opportunities that no one else would give me. The faculty never saw me as just another number; they showed love to me and never judged me for my past. I felt like family here. I could walk into the guidance counselor’s office at any time, Ms. Heather Greene at the time, and bug her to death for anything I needed. And I knew without a doubt that if I needed help with a class, I could just go to Blue Room and bug Mr. Bodner. I knew for sure that he would teach me anything I needed to learn. I thank God for bringing me to this school, where a punk kid like me could find hope for the future, and a new beginning.
Here’s some of what the school allowed me to achieve: In my first year at Main Street High, I finished 11 classes. I went from troublemaker to honor-roll student. This school put me through the dual enrollment program, where my first semester of college was paid in full. I went from arriving at Main Street High with 9 credits, a 1.8 GPA, and a criminal background at 15 years old, to graduating from Main Street High with a 3.5 GPA with honors, and some college credits just before I turned 17. No one else believed in me, but Main Street High did.
This alone was a miracle to me. But it wasn’t just about graduating high school; Main Street High opened doors for me even after graduation. This school opened doors for the future. I went on to join the honors program at Valencia College, for a full scholarship towards my Associates Degree, and was also involved in Student Government, and an academic honors society. Just after graduating from Main Street High, I completed a summer internship with a local congressman, despite my earlier juvenile record. Within a year of graduating from Main Street High, I received personal recognition from the Governor of Florida. In a televised press release at Valencia, the Governor shared some of my story. I went on to obtain my Associates Degree with honors and a 4.0 GPA. I also gained a transfer scholarship to Harvard University’s Extension School where I’m currently enrolled and finishing my Bachelor’s degree. I’m studying government and finance, and I’m pursuing law school and my own investment firm in the near future.
It still blows my mind that a young kid with my background would even be considered for the opportunities I’ve been given, much of which I owe to Main Street High. But school is just one part of my story. . . Ever since my life changed when I was 15, I’ve been involved in the youth ministry at The Rock Church. The people here have showed me love and guidance throughout my journey, and even when the world called me a reject, this church treated me like a son. I’m 19 now and I know that nothing is impossible with God.
No matter where we’ve come from, what mistakes we’ve made, I know God has a plan and a purpose for us.
On June 6, 112 graduates received their high school diplomas from Palm Beach Central High/Mavericks; and on June 7, another 91 graduates will receive their diplomas from North Miami Mavericks.