Maura Paredes: Finding Her Way Out of a ‘Black Hole’
May 3, 2022 | Jeffrey Good
For Maura Paredes, traditional high school was never the right fit. Navigating the crowded corridors, she felt her anxiety soar. When she would fall behind in class, she hesitated to raise her hand and ask for help.
She didn’t become a disciplinary problem, but she also didn’t feel like a success. “I never really got into trouble,” she says. “I was always quiet.”
She felt her drive dissipate. “I was running away from school because I felt like I couldn’t do it.” She feared she might have to settle for a GED.
But then she found out about St. Lucie Acceleration Academies, which works in partnership with St. Lucie Public Schools to provide a flexible, personalized path to a high school diploma.
Arriving at the small campus, she found a quiet, studious learning environment where she could focus on her work. She found a team of educators who took a deep personal interest and urged her to find the best in herself.
They made learning engaging, relevant, even fun. Science coach Amine Brown took her and other graduation candidates on a field trip to Heathcoate Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce to make a connecting between academic texts and the natural world.
“I’m not a nature person but it was pretty cool,” she says of learning more about insects, snakes and all manner of plant life. “That’s the difference. They actually show you.”
Maura found that the personal touch didn’t just apply to academics. In graduation candidate advocate Emerald Jamison, she says, she found a “school mom and best friend,” she says. “Not only did she help me with school. She listened to me, helped me with my problems.”
At one point during her journey at SLAA, Maura got in a serious car accident and felt her motivation for studies fading fast. Jamison came to pay her a personal visit and cheer her on.
“That made me feel good — that she actually came to visit me and check on me,” she says. “It meant a lot because I often felt alone.”
With such support, and her own hard work, Maura graduated and is making plans for further education and a career.
“I was stuck in a black hole for a while, until I graduated,” she says. “Now I can see stuff for me.”
Any advice for other young learners who find themselves struggling? “If you want to meet a goal, push yourself because it will probably be worth it.”