MDAA Grad Daniela Arbelaez: Turning Pain Into Strength
February 1, 2024 | Jeffrey Good
On the cap she wore to celebrate her recent graduation from Miami-Dade Acceleration Academies (MDAA), Daniela Arbelaez emblazoned this message: “The pain you feel today is the strength you will feel tomorrow.”
Daniela, 17, wrote from the heart — and from hard experience.
In addition to the usual challenges of high school and the teen years, Daniela had to deal with her parents’ divorce, being forced to live for a time away from familiar surroundings and bouts of depression.
When she arrived at MDAA in late summer 2022, she was ready for support, stability and a personalized way to power through her coursework, earn her diploma and move ahead to her ambition of becoming a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot.
She found all of the above.
“I like Acceleration Academies because I can have a connection with my teachers,” she says. “It also made me feel more independent.”
Daniela’s mother, Olga Chacon, found MDAA online. She liked the sounds of a program that would allow Daniela to move through courses at her own pace while also getting one-on-one support when she needed it. When they went to visit the Homestead campus and Assistant Director Maria Serrano showed them around, they were sold.
“We loved it,” she says. After enrolling, Daniela felt embraced by the team of caring educators, particularly English coach Joanne Kremer.
“If I ever needed help on a question, I would never hesitate to ask,” says Daniela. “She wasn’t just there for me academically; she was also there for me emotionally.”
“She was someone I could confide in,” she adds. “I’ve never had that kind of connection with any other teacher.”
Determined to accelerate her studies and graduate early, Daniela learned to manage her time wisely and move at a brisk pace. Rather than people telling her what to do, she charted her own course and invested the hard work needed to achieve it.
“I could just go do schoolwork and focus on what I needed to do,” she says. “It made me more disciplined.”
Her mother beamed as Daniela prepared to receive her diploma. Olga says MDAA was just the right fit. “She was able to take her time and be more independent,” she says. “I’m very proud of my daughter.”
Miami-Dade Acceleration Academies, with three locations in Miami and Homestead, FL, accepts new students year-round. For more information, check out the academy web page and fill out an online enrollment form.