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Twin Grads Celebrate Program that Allowed Them to Care for Grandmother

June 4, 2024 | Jeffrey Good

Twin Grads Celebrate Program that Allowed Them to Care for Grandmother image

Family members, friends and educators gathered recently to celebrate the latest class of graduates from Bethel Acceleration Academies — 50 young people who pushed through adversity to realize their dream of a high school diploma. 

“All of you had the option to give up, drop out of school or get a GED. Instead, you aimed high and you hit the mark,” BAA Interim Director Kevin Torres told the grads. “Each of you, in unique ways, was knocked down — and where some refuse to rise, you stood.”

Twin sisters Lesandra and Jeanieva Tialevea were among the proud grads, and they had a huge group of family members there to celebrate their success — including a beloved grandmother whom they were able to care for due to the flexible scheduling offered by Acceleration Academies. 

Lesandra (left), grandmother, Jeanieva (right)

Their grandmother suffers from kidney disease and needs dialysis numerous mornings each week. Coming to BAA allowed the sisters to use the family’s only car to transport her — at hours when a traditional school would have required the young women to be in class. 

“I know school’s important, but getting her to that appointment was more important,” says Jeanieva. “BAA allowed us to do that.”

The twins are also serious competitive volleyball players and said the flexibility helped when they needed to travel out of town and state for games. And when it came down to doing their coursework — on campus, online, during the school day or after hours — they could always count on their advocates and teachers to provide encouragement and support. 

BAA twins

The twins are of Samoan descent, and they said a fellow Pacific Islander — graduation candidate advocate Ray McAdam — was there to urge them on even when their momentum flagged. 

“If we were falling behind, she would stay on top of us, call us, even come to our house,” said Jeanieva. Her sister, Lesandra, added, “She is an islander too, she would say, you’ve got to represent the islanders well.” 

Also inspirational was graduation candidate advocate Tanya Crawford. Jeanieva said, “She would send motivating messages to us each morning” and set them up with Zoom links for testing and help during and after school hours. 

The twins initially learned about BAA from their brother, Noah, who successfully completed the non-traditional program, graduated and went on to a promising life. 

With diploma in hand, Jeanieva is hoping to land a scholarship to attend college and train to become a nurse and, later, a neurosurgeon. Lesandra plans to enlist in the Armed Forces, become a cook and earn free college tuition after her tour of duty is complete. 

Both credit BAA with giving them a chance to succeed academically and personally.

“There’s always someone there. They would not just talk about school; they would ask us about our life,” Lesandra said of the entire BAA staff. Jeanieva added, “It’s something that traditional school doesn’t offer you.”

Click here for photos of graduation day by photojournalist Drew Perine. 

BAA Graduation May 2024

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 >>>

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