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EAA Grad: ‘I Wouldn’t Be Who I Am Today’ without Acceleration Academies

March 4, 2024 | Jeffrey Good

EAA Grad: ‘I Wouldn’t Be Who I Am Today’ without Acceleration Academies image

Acceleration Academies of Ector County (EAA) celebrated its latest class of graduates in a festive ceremony with parents, educators and the new leader of the nationwide network of non-traditional high school programs cheering them on. 

Acceleration Academies CEO Kelli Campbell congratulated the graduates on the hard work they invested to earn their diplomas, celebrated EAA educators for providing them with personalized support, and thanked Dr. Scott Muri and other leaders of the Ector County Independent School District for their partnership in providing a non-traditional path to young learners who need one. 

Woman stands at podium giving a speech.Acceleration Academies CEO Kelli Campbell

“Today, we not only celebrate individual achievements but also the collective impact of education in shaping our society and shaping the future,” said Campbell, who took over in November after emerging as a national leader in using technology to broaden access to educational opportunities. 

“Personally, I grew up in a small, rural area of central Illinois. Neither of my parents have a high school diploma. I’m a first generation high school graduate, and now I’m CEO of a national company,” she said. “I deeply appreciate the importance of education, and I couldn’t be more excited for all of you and the opportunities ahead!”  

Each of the grads had a unique story to tell of facing adversity and making the commitment to re-engaging in their studies — with EAA team members providing academic and emotional support at every step. 

“If it weren’t for Acceleration Academies, I would have dropped out. I wouldn’t be who I am today,” said Nayeli Serna, who was chosen to give the graduation address. 

High school graduate stands at podium giving speech.Nayeli Serna

Like so many Americans, Nayeli got sick with Covid when the pandemic hit and ended up in the hospital. Emerging from that ordeal, Nayeli felt uncomfortable returning to a traditional school with its crowded classrooms and bustling hallways. 

At EAA, she was able to take advantage of the hybrid learning model to do some of her work at home and come to campus for a quiet learning space and ample one-on-one support. The illness had weakened her immune system and she had some health setbacks along the way, but she said EAA educators provided a steady supply of patience and encouragement. 

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“All of them would motivate me, call me, check up on me,” says Nayeli. They told her, “Come on, you’re almost done!” 

Nayeli has a deep commitment to her family, and EAA’s flexible scheduling allowed her to care for her grandmother and help her family through repeated setbacks while also making progress in her coursework. 

Nayeli credited several EAA educators, including academy Director Natosha Scott, career coach Elsa Caballero and graduation candidate advocate Dionna Williams. She said math content coach Jennifer Rosario-Perez helped her make a 180-degree turn in that challenging subject. 

“I was horrible at algebra, and after she helped me, I was amazing at algebra,” says Nayeli, who is planning to go on to college to build a career in health care. “I love Miss Jennifer.” 

Nayeli and her fellow grads strode across the stage and accepted their diplomas as family, friends and educators cheered and shed happy tears. As the grads head off to college, career and building families of their own, Campbell encouraged them to carry a spirit of adventure and commitment. 

“I urge you all to embrace these opportunities with enthusiasm and determination,” she said. “Embrace challenges as a chance for growth, and never lose sight of your dreams and aspirations. Remember that your education does not end here; it is a lifelong journey of learning and self-improvement. As you embark on this new chapter of your lives, stay true to yourselves, pursue your passions, and always strive for excellence. Make a difference in the world, no matter how big or small, and never underestimate the power of your actions to effect positive change.

“In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,’ ” she concluded. “Graduates, go forth and make your mark on the world.”

Click here for a collection of images by photographer Steve Aicinena.

EAA 2-29-24 Graduation


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