Our Blog

Makenna Wheeler: ‘Then I found out about Bethel Acceleration Academies — and it changed my life’

February 22, 2024 | Jeffrey Good

Makenna Wheeler: ‘Then I found out about Bethel Acceleration Academies — and it changed my life’ image

Makenna Wheeler had always been an eager, accomplished student. With a wry smile, she says, “I used to always raise my hand, every question — even if I didn’t know it.” 

But her eagerness vanished after her father died unexpectedly of a heart attack caused by an overdose. She tried an alternative school but had trouble regaining her stride. Then came the Covid pandemic, a long stretch of time when she found little to do but hang out with friends who brought opioids to her house and urged her to join them. “I kept falling into the addiction more and more.” 

She also found herself in an abusive relationship and, at one point she was vaping and injured her lungs so badly that she had to be placed in a medically induced coma. On top of her other challenges, school just became too much. 

“I dropped out and gave up,” she says. Part of the reason was lingering grief over the passing of her beloved father. “He was the only person in my family to go to college. I didn’t want to walk across the stage without my father. He always said that when I walked across the stage, he would be the loudest person in the audience.” 


But the more she thought about it, the more she realized she wasn’t ready to give up her own hopes for a brighter future. “Then,” she says, “I found out about Bethel Acceleration Academies — and it changed my life.” 

How to Deal With the Challenges of Going Back to School After COVID >>>

After enrolling, she began to regain confidence and to enjoy learning again. She continued to grapple with health issues, but says BAA educators could not have been more supportive. 

“It was unlike anything I had ever been through before, because most people don’t tend to care,” she says. “I’ve never been looked at with that sort of empathy. It was really nice.” 

The ability to work from home came in handy at times when she lacked stamina due to her still-weakened lungs. BAA Director Kevin Torres provided unstinting support, she says. “He understood and was really kind.” 

She didn’t think she was good at studying and writing about history, but her history content coach urged Makenna to give herself more credit. “She seemed like a really big fan of my essays, so it helped me grow more confident. It was really nice to have somebody who was like, ‘You’re amazing!’ ” 


So amazing that Makenna recently powered through the last of her courses and celebrated her graduation.  

“I have a lot of appreciation for this school,” says Makenna, whose partner, Taylor, is also a BAA learner and provider of endless encouragement. “This school is a lovely place filled with people who actually care about you — not just teachers trying to make a living.”

Bethel Acceleration Academies is a flexible education program in Spanaway, WA, offering high schoolers ages 16-20 a blended learning model that allows them to work in person and at home, year-round. With extended on-site hours, students focus on one course at a time and can complete coursework around their schedule. When working from home, students can receive remote support to help keep them on track in their courses. Learn more >>>

« Back to Blog

In the News

View all news