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In Ector, Finding a Way to Care for Her Brother and Herself

May 15, 2023 | Jeffrey Good

In Ector, Finding a Way to Care for Her Brother and Herself image

For Zamaria Farris, there were so many reasons to leave her traditional high school behind: sweaty hallways, teachers who lacked the time to help her, a social life that led her to the shopping mall rather than study hall.

But the most important reason has a name: Donovan.

“I love him so much,” she says, holding up her phone and showing a photo of her 27-year-old brother, who is developmentally disabled and needs constant care.

Zamaria’s mother has to work two jobs — running a nursing home kitchen by day and logging hours at Amazon by night — to pay the rent and put food on the table. As a teenager, Zamaria has stepped up to help care for her brother many hours a day — a responsibility she is happy to shoulder but a schedule that doesn’t fit within a traditional school day.

At Acceleration Academies of Ector County (EAA), the personalized approach and flexible schedule means she is able to spend a chunk of time on campus and then go home to help feed, bathe, clothe and laugh with her big brother.

She couldn’t be more grateful. “He’s my little baby, even though he’s grown.”

EAA meets her needs as well. At her old school, she frequently felt overwhelmed by the crowded hallways and classrooms, and she said teachers just didn’t seem to have the time. “They weren’t really helping me out with anything, so I just stopped going.”

For a time, she despaired that she might never return to high school, she says. “My heart was busting.”

But then she found out about EAA, which works in partnership with the Ector County Indpendent School District to provide a non-traditional path to learners who’ve been frustrated in other settings. She loves the calm, studious environment, cafe-style seating and — especially — the encouragement provided by educators like graduation candidate advocate Megan Whitty.

“When I’m sitting with my group for too long, she’ll come and get me, say, ‘Come one, let’s go do your test,’ ” says Zamaria, who dreams of becoming a cosmetologist. “She pushes me, in a good way.”

Acceleration Academies of Ector County 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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