Josiah Gadia Celebrated as ECAA’s First Graduate
April 26, 2022 | Jeffrey Good
Josiah Gadia was in his final semester of high school when the pressures of an unstable home life, the need to hold down a job, and the challenges of schoolwork became too much to bear.
“I was really close to being finished,” Josiah recalled. “I just couldn’t keep everything together.”
Two years later, Josiah is feeling very much together. He was recently celebrated by family, friends and educators as the first-ever graduate of the recently opened Escambia County Acceleration Academies.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “But once Acceleration Academies was introduced to me, it just clicked.”
After dropping out of his previous school two years ago, Josiah felt a fleeting sense of relief. “After you drop out, you get a sense of freedom: ‘Oh, I don’t have school anymore,’ ” he said. “But after a while it gets a little old.”
After quitting school, Josiah moved from job to job. He worked at a cocktail lounge, Circle K convenience story, and the Waffle House. At one point, he worked at a Chuck E. Cheese family pizza restaurant doing game room maintenance — and more.
“I got paid to put on a giant Chuck E Cheese costume and dance for a bunch of little kids,” he said, shaking his head with a rueful laugh. Before long, he realized, “I wanted to so something more. I can’t do what I want without an education.”
Then he received a recruiting letter from Acceleration Academies, which works in partnership with Escambia County School Superintendent Dr. Timothy A. Smith and his team to provide a flexible, personalized path to graduation for students who haven’t found success in traditional settings.
Josiah saw it as “a second chance to get my education and finally get my life back together.” He liked that he could take one course at a time, focusing on one subject before moving on to the next. “I can work at my own pace. It allows me to understand things at the speed I want.”
His focus wavered when he first began, but he said that educators including graduation candidate advocate Cordivido Grice provided warm-but-firm encouragement. Life coach Amber Fernbach also helped him sort through the personal challenges — including anxiety, depression and family issues — that sometimes got in the way.
“Sometimes I have things on my mind and I need somebody to talk to,” said Josiah. “Even though I’m 20 now, I’m still not that far out from being a teenager, so I still have confusion in some aspects of my life.”
He’s clear about his dreams. He loves to play music, having picked up a a guitar at 16 and teaming up with a friend, Damien Burbank, to write songs that have more than 100,000 plays on Spotify. In addition to building his musical career, Josiah would like to study video game and graphic design in college, with help from a U.S. Navy scholarship rooted in his grandfather’s service.
“I’ve always wanted to build a gaming PC,” he says. “I want to contribute to the video gaming community.”
What advice would he give to other struggling students? Check out Acceleration Academies, he said. “If you’re not doing it for someone else, do it for yourself, rather than not doing it and regretting it later on in life.”