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ECAA Grad Kendall Mast: ‘Having Hope is a Really Big Thing’

November 30, 2023 | Jeffrey Good

ECAA Grad Kendall Mast: ‘Having Hope is a Really Big Thing’ image

Kendall Mast had never felt at home in the hurly burly of traditional high school. Throw in a series of family moves and the challenge of finding a stable school environment became that much steeper. 

When her father moved the family to Pensacola, Florida, for a Navy posting, Kendall knew she didn’t want to enroll at a big high school full of students and teachers she had never met. She found her way to Escambia County Acceleration Academies (ECAA) and quickly felt at home.

“It’s an amazing and flexible learning environment and it’s just really comfortable,” she says. “They are really, really helpful and I just enjoy being around the staff and students.” 

As Kendall worked in the ECAA program — taking one class at a time, setting her own schedule, taking advantage of academic and social coaching when she needed it — she felt her confidence grow. By the time she was nearing graduation, she had established herself not only as a strong graduation candidate, but also as a leader. 

ECAA Director Mat Taylor established a student council to give learners a voice in how the academy runs, and a hand in making it more than just a place to go and do their coursework. As one of the student government leaders, Kendall helped create posters for Women’s History Month, organize theme food days and create fun activities to provide a study break for her hard-working peers. 

She also became an ambassador, welcoming new GCs and helping them hit their stride. “I wanted to be involved with the new people coming in,” she says. “I wanted to make people feel comfortable at a new school.”

One of the messages she delivered was that Taylor and his team of educators stand ready to help during school hours and beyond. She benefited from patient guidance in math class, for instance, and she loved the “29 Room” Taylor created as a haven for students who have spent 29 or more days in a single course and need support to push through to completion. 

“Mr. T really is amazing,” she said of Taylor. 

Graduate stands in blue cap and gown.

Just before Christmas in her final year, her parents moved again — this time to another Army posting in Japan. Kendall decided to remain behind in Pensacola to finish school and get started on her adult life. She says ECAA educators supported her during the challenging transition. 

She cited in particular math coach Lori Bane. “She understands that there are problems outside of school,” says Kendall, who recently turned 19. “She was really there, by my side.” 

Kendall recently finished her studies and joined other members of the Class of 2023 in celebrating the diplomas they had strived so mightily to earn. She’s moving on to study cosmetology, with hopes to open her own salon one day. 

Her advice for other young people who might be wondering how they’re going to make it through high school? “Having hope is a really big thing,” she says. So is having an option like Acceleration Academies.  

“Realizing you need to get some help is really important.” 

Escambia County 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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