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Clark County Graduates Celebrate ‘Second Chance’ During June Commencement

June 30, 2023 | Jeffrey Good

Clark County Graduates Celebrate ‘Second Chance’ During June Commencement image

Surrounded by cheering family, friends and educators, more than 150 young people — the largest graduating class ever — celebrated the high school diplomas they worked so hard to earn at Clark County Acceleration Academies (CCAA). 

“Graduates, thank you for putting in the effort, for getting through the hills and valleys, overcoming obstacles, and making this day your priority,” veteran Nevada educator and Acceleration Academies Vice President Eric Gant told the grads. “All that work, everything you’ve done, has paid off!”

Leslye Alondra Calderon

Leslye Alondra Calderon was one of those hard-working grads. Like many of her CCAA peers, Leslye had always been a strong student — but her wish to help her family in a time of need made it impossible for her to follow the schedule of traditional high school.

Leslye’s mother came down with Covid two years ago, and it wreaked havoc on her health. She suffered severe anemia and infections in her kidney and lungs, had to undergo blood transfusions, suffered bone deterioration and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She had to move to California for specialized treatment, and Leslye took on the job of caring for her mother, running her decorating business back home and generally keeping the family intact. 

“I really did enjoy school. It was never my plan to just not continue school,” says Leslye. But with her family responsibilities, she said, “basically, I had dropped out. I was really focused on how am I going to take care of my mom and my brothers.” 

Then she learned about Clark County Acceleration Academies (CCAA), where flexible scheduling and personalized support allowed her to balance her personal and academic demands. 

“I really didn’t want to let another year pass,” she says. “It took a lot for me to build up the spark in me to continue going to school. But I knew that I didn’t want to be stuck. I encouraged myself and pushed myself to re-enroll.” 

She’s glad she did, saying that her graduation candidate advocate, Paola Gutierrez, was especially supportive. “I would consider coach Paola a friend. I felt like somebody was actually checking on me when I was alone.” 

Fellow graduate Demetrius Watson had also struggled in traditional school. As is true of many CCAA learners, he had found it hard to deal with a school day that began early, required him to take multiple classes at once and get personalized help in crowded classrooms. 

“To have all those classes at once was hectic,” he says. But at CCAA, the ability to take one class at a time and work at his own pace proved the path to success. “I was able to progress faster. I like how Acceleration Academies is formatted so it’s so it’s all based on your pace and how hard you work. I feel like that’s why I’ve been able to succeed.” 

Like Leslye, he benefited from the firm but caring support of his graduation candidate advocate. Katya Riley would monitor his progress in courses, encourage him to get back on pace when needed, and then help him start a new course once he had mastered the last one — even after regular school hours. 

“She’s really on it and I appreciate that because she has a lot of students,” says Demetrius. 

With diploma in hand, Demetrius has already been accepted into two universities — Fisk University in Nashville and St. John’s University in New York — and is hoping for a “Yes” from the American University of Paris. He’d like to study international business. 

In addition to helping run her family business, Leslye is planning to enroll in cosmetology school, become an esthetician and, some day, run her own business. None of that might have happened without CCAA. 

“Acceleration Academies,” she says, “has given me a second chance.” 

Clark 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.

Here are some images from commencement courtesy of photographer Patrick Gray. 

Clark County Acceleration Academies Graduation June 2023


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