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GCAA Student Overcomes Challenges, Finds Support

April 23, 2024 | Jeffrey Good

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Idaly Morales’ parents brought her and her brother to the United States from Mexico in hopes of giving them a broader range of opportunities — opportunities that, Idaly knows, begin with a good education. 

Idaly wanted to do well in her classes, but she felt overwhelmed by the crowded classrooms and hallways of her former, traditional school. “There were couples kissing everywhere, people fighting, you had to fight to get past them and to your class.” 

Making matters worse, when she needed help, teachers often didn’t seem to have the time to provide it. She would raise her hand, she says, “but the teachers would never take the time to explain so I could get a good understanding.” 

Then Idaly’s brother, Yordin, enrolled at Gwinnett County Acceleration Academies (GCAA). He told his younger sister about the way he was able to take one course at a time, receive personalized help when he needed it and study in a calm, comfortable learning environment. 

She decided to follow his lead. “As soon as I came here and I saw it, I liked it,” she recalls. “It’s quiet, there’s no drama and whenever I need help, it’s there.”

English content coach Morris Bevily helps Idaly to analyze and explain works written by authors. “I’ll ask him when I need help with a work and he takes the time to explain it to me.” 

Idaly failed geometry at her old school but at GCAA, the math coach has worked patiently with her to turn a corner. And when she needs some moral support she turns to Graduation Candidate Advocate — at Acceleration Academies, students are known as Graduation Candidates and their main line of support is their assigned Graduation Candidate Advocate — Jamaal Hickman.

“When I’m having a hard time, I go and talk to him,” she says. “He makes me smile, helps things go better.” 

Her brother had his challenges, but he overcame them to earn his diploma late last year. These days he is cheering her on. “He wants me to graduate. He said, ‘I want to be proud of you.’ ”

She wants to be proud of herself, too. Her goal is to earn her diploma this year and move on to beauty school. She can’t wait to don cap and gown and look out to see her parents beaming. 

“They both motivate me to do better,” says Idaly. “They tell me, ‘You’ve got this.’ ” 

Gwinnett County Acceleration Academies is a flexible education program that works in partnership with Gwinnett County Public Schools to provide a blended learning model that allows students to work in person and at home, year-round.

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