For Gwinnett Grads, a Celebration of ‘Triumph Over Adversity’
January 10, 2024 | Jeffrey Good
For each of the 16 graduates celebrated at the most recent Gwinnett County Acceleration Academies (GCAA) commencement, the day represented not an ordinary step in their life journey but instead an extraordinary triumph of their determination.
Introducing the grad chosen to deliver the commencement address, English content coach Morris Bevily said Kaiden Harvey exemplified the qualities shown by the newly minted members of the Class of 2023.
“Our speaker today is an embodiment of perseverance, determination, and resilience,” Bevily began, as Kaiden, his supporters and classmates listened with pride. “Throughout their high school years, they faced obstacles that might have discouraged others, but instead, they emerged stronger. They navigated challenges that tested their spirit, and through hard work and unwavering resolve, they stand before us today as a symbol of triumph over adversity.”
Another grad, Chloe Poe, had a similar story to tell. Chloe has always taken learning seriously. But at one point during her years in traditional high school she began to doubt she would ever reach this day.
The hallways were chaos, with students regularly getting into fights that made her and others feel unsafe. She struggled at times to keep up. “I felt like I wasn’t getting the help I needed because the teachers were more focused on the kids who weren’t doing what they should be doing.”
But she didn’t want to give up, and not just for her own sake. “I always wanted to graduate,” says Chloe, 18. “I have a little sister who looks up to me, and if I don’t graduate she won’t take it as seriously.”
Just as her hopes sank, her father brought home a brochure about a new public high school that would allow her to take one course at a time, get as much academic and personal support as she needed, and set a schedule that would allow her to keep her full-time job while also making progress toward her diploma.
Arriving at Gwinnett County Acceleration Academies in Duluth, GA, Chloe found her learning home. “I thought I wasn’t going to finish school, but then I got here and they work with you — there’s a lot more motivation.”
Science coach Alisa TenHoopen was particularly helpful. At her former school, “the teacher just made us watch movies and take a test the week after,” Chloe says. TenHoopen, by contrast, would take as much time as needed to help her break the material down and absorb it fully.
She also got a regular boost from academy Director Hashima Carothers. “She makes sure that I stay on track. If I get sidetracked with other people, she reminds me of the goals I’ve set for myself.”
Chloe has been accepted into Georgia Military College, with plans to become a paralegal and work with children in the foster care system. “I’ve always wanted to help kids who don’t have voices.”
At GCAA, Chloe never doubted that her voice was being heard. “They heard what my goal was and they went above and beyond to help me achieve it.”
Click here for images from the day by photographer Charles Anderson.