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At Marion County Academy, Best Friends Soar Together

May 4, 2023 | Jeffrey Good

At Marion County Academy, Best Friends Soar Together image

Adrianna Wann and Leilani Brown walked very different paths to Marion County Acceleration Academies, but these besties have something vital in common: a drive to move past adversity into a promising tomorrow.

“They are,” says MCAA Director Wayne Livingston, “the dynamic duo.”

Adrianna is the eldest of three daughters of parents who made mistake after mistake and never showed up for their kids. Adrianna was raising her sisters single handedly when state social workers officially removed them from their mother’s custody and placed them in foster care.

Living in a group home, Adrianna tried virtual high school but the lack of personalized attention persuaded her to drop out. “I wasn’t getting the help I needed. I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere.”

But she wasn’t ready to give up. When she heard about MCAA, which offers a personalized curriculum, flexible schedule and ample one-on-one support, she decided to give it a try — and has been soaring ever since.

“I walk in, hear ‘Good morning’ and know it’s going to be a good day.”

Adrianna is so happy at the academy that she urged her best friend in the foster group home to check it out.

Leilani is a young mom with a baby son, Carmello. Like her friend, she tried an all-virtual school but found herself starving for support. “You couldn’t really get in touch with them,” she says of the online teachers. “You’d email and have to wait two days.”

She found a different culture at the school run by Livingston and his team of caring educators. The school’s flexible schedule is key —

She comes in to the academy Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., which allows her to focus on her coursework and still have time to care for her son.

While on campus, Leilani finds the support she needs. Annette Maldonado-Garcia, an educator who works with students who learn differently, has played a major role.

“She’s a really good advocate,” Leilani says, explaining that the coach prints out study guides, checks in regularly and provides regular words of encouragement.

Also helpful is math coach Robert Boulais. “Math is my least favorite subject,” she says. “Just the way he breaks things down. He will not leave your side until you understand it.”

Both young women know what it’s like to stand on their own, to navigate the shoals of young adulthood earlier than most. They are strong alone, and even stronger together.

“We’re each other’s motivation,” says Adrianna. “We do everything together.”

Including dream.

Leilani is a gifted track and field athlete — her events range from discuss to hurdles to running the mile — that is, when she’s not in the boxing ring. Some day, she’d like to run her own gym.

Adrianna has ambitions to get her commercial driver’s license and driving big rigs, and might like to go to college to become a midwife.

“I want to experience new things,” she says. “I have big goals in life.”


Marion County Acceleration Academies accepts new students on a rolling basis. For more information, check out the academy web page and fill out an online enrollment form.

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