By Barney Blakeney
The much anticipated opening of Charleston Acceleration Academy became a reality September 4 as approximately 120 students embarked on a course toward a diploma and high school graduation. Charleston Acceleration Academy is a unique S.C. Public Charter School helping young adults overcome real-life challenges to earn their district or state-issued high school diploma. The school opened at the Septima Clark Academy site, 1929 Grimball Rd, on James Island in Charleston. Ribbon-cutting and open house ceremonies were held September 5.
The school serves students ages 16-21 through non-traditional approaches that incorporate web-based curriculum and technology, individualized learning plans, hands-on life and career coaching and flexible hours and scheduling. Charleston Accelerated Academy (CAA) is unique in many ways, but most importantly, it offers educational opportunities which previously have not been provided through ‘outside the box’ approaches to instruction for young adults. Its mission is to provide a comprehensive education to at-risk students which leads to students’ attainment of a diploma, acceptance to college or pursuit of a career, and culminates in each student having a positive impact in their community.
To accomplish that mission CAA provides what research shows students need to be successful: engaging courses, technologically advanced educational tools, personalized curriculum, and regular interaction with caring adults. CAA offers the tools needed to help students overcome personal barriers to attendance and engagement that include services which allow graduate candidates the flexibility to work from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection, individualized learning plans which are tailored for each graduate candidate’s individual schedule and focus on the next step with hands-on life & career coaching.
Realizing that no one-size-fits-all, CAA offers a variety of supports to help graduate candidates find the path that’s best for them whether that is college, the military or a career. Highly qualified paraprofessionals and certified teachers work with candidates in small groups or in one-on-one settings creating opportunities to develop substantial relationships. The facility is staffed with two vans that will allow candidates to schedule transportation to and from its James Island site. And public bus passes are offered that can help candidates not only get to school, but also to work or other areas around the community.
Food services are available. CAA is partnered with the school district to provide food services daily. CAA understands that many of our candidates are caretakers to families of their own and allows candidates to bring their children to the site. CAA does not take custodianship of the children, and at all times, the parent is the guardian of their child, however this allows candidates flexibility in their scheduling.
As importantly, CAA has connections with local businesses and services to help candidates including churches and faith-based organizations, Trident Technical College and area Chamber of Commerces – networks that support candidates beyond the facility. CAA is Acceleration Academies’ first location in South Carolina, and the seventh location nationwide. Over 4,500 high school-aged students in Charleston County are currently not enrolled in traditional high schools due to a variety of factors such as needing to work to support themselves or their families, a lack of transportation or resources, or family caretaker obligations.
“The Academy’s goal is to make Charleston County a no-dropout community,” said Tom Ducker, Charleston Acceleration Academy Board Member. “CAA’s uniquely personalized and engaging education model is designed to provide the social, emotional and academic supports needed to re-engage high-risk and at-risk youth with their education and set them on the path towards graduation, careers and college,” said Charleston County School Supt. Dr. Gerrita Postlewait.
CAA board Chair Nadine Deif added, “We encourage businesses, community/church leaders, law enforcement and parents to encourage students to seek our help. Our job is to help the youth become high school graduates and find a career path that’s right for them. The individuality of each student is respected and encouraged.”