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Marrah Murray-Rodriguez: Finding Her Focus in Miami

September 22, 2022 | Jeffrey Good

Marrah Murray-Rodriguez: Finding Her Focus in Miami image

When Marrah Murray-Rodriguez arrived at Miami-Dade Acceleration Academies, she didn’t have a laptop computer. She didn’t have a cell phone. And she didn’t have many people in her life cheering her on.

For the last 7 years, Marrah’s mother — who she calls “my best friend”  — has been incarcerated on serious charges and unable to play an active role in the life of her daughter, now 18. Her father and her stepmother haven’t been much help, either.

“They don’t really care about my education,” she says. “They don’t really care about me at all.”

Marrah dropped out of the Philadelphia high school she was attending in 9th grade for many reasons, including teachers who didn’t seem to have the time to help. “When I did need help, I would just try to manage on my own. I struggled with it.”

After being away from school for more than a year and a half, Marrah found her way to MDAA, where a dedicated team of educators offered her the kind of support — personal as well as academic — she needed to get her studies and life moving toward hope.

“It’s different from traditional school,” she says. “I like that I can have one class at a time and take it at my own pace. It’s less stressful.”

She loves the quiet, studious atmosphere. “It’s very quiet,” she says. “I can’t really focus when there’s a lot of loud stuff going on.”

Maria Serrano, a graduation candidate who plays a motherly role at the Homestead campus, provides a steady supply but loving-but-firm guidance, she says.

“She’s always on top of me, making sure I’m doing the things I need to — which I need,” says Marrah. And as she powers through courses at a blistering rate of one every 2 weeks, she basks in the way the entire academy stops and applauds whenever she or another graduation candidate complete a course.

“I’m not used to praise, you could say,” says Marah. “It motivates me to keep going.”

She’s considering a career in social work, finding a way to support others as she has been supported. Her message to other young people trying to push through barriers to claim their futures?

“I would tell them to not be so hard on themselves, to at least give it a try. Because you never know what you can accomplish unless you at least give it a try.”

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