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Bethel Grads Celebrated for Their Grit

December 4, 2023 | Jeffrey Good

Bethel Grads Celebrated for Their Grit image

The latest crop of graduates from Bethel Acceleration Academies in Spanaway, WA, recently strode across the stage and celebrated the diplomas they worked so hard to earn. 

There were 38 grads, and each has a unique story of pushing through adversity to re-engage in their high school studies, rebuild their social and academic confidence, and make plans for a future made that much brighter by the diplomas in their hands. 

Bethel graduates stand in line wearing caps and gowns.

The hall filled with laughter and cheers as the grads prepared to turn their tassels. Acting BAA Director Kevin Torres congratulated them on the grit and determination they had displayed. 

“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 … This group of graduates had to overcome a plethora of obstacles ranging from extreme working hours to medical and deep personal issues.

“Each of you, in unique ways, was knocked down and where some refuse to rise, you stood,” Torres continued. “That is a powerful lesson that none of you should overlook. You had every reason to quit and instead conquered.” 

Bethel graduate poses for a picture.

One of the grads, Bailie Turner, said she was looking for a school where she could pursue her studies with plenty of support and a minimum of distraction. She found it at Bethel Acceleration Academies. 

For Bailie, 17, the first part of high school was spent in the isolation of the Covid pandemic. Because her parents still worked outside the home, she took on the responsibility of caring for her siblings and found herself falling behind in her coursework. 

Once schools re-opened, she returned to find an environment where many of her classmates weren’t as serious about their studies as she was. “It kind of felt like we were still in middle school,” she says. “It felt like nobody had the chance to mentally mature.” 

An ROTC student, she transferred to the Washington Youth Challenge Academy and welcomed the focus and discipline of the military program. But it only lasted six months, not enough time for her to complete the requirements for her diploma. 

To her relief, she found BAA. Arriving on campus, she appreciated the low-key but studious environment. And because she was able to work from home as well as on campus, she was able to continue looking after her younger siblings. “Having a chance to do my schoolwork at night or when they’re napping was really great. It was fantastic.” 

During the normal school day and after hours, she benefited from the support of BAA educators including graduation candidate advocate Steve Shamburger. “Coach Steve was super helpful,” she says. “He was really nice. It sounds funny, but that’s so rare these days.” 

With her diploma in hand, Bailie is ready to take flight — literally. She’s planning to enroll at Clover Park  Technical College, earn her pilot’s license and build a career in commercial aviation. “It would be really cool to fly around the world and get paid for it.” 

Bethel Acceleration Academies Graduation

Click here to see a gallery of images from graduation by photojournalist Drew Perine. 

Bethel Acceleration Academies accepts 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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