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MDAA’s Nakya Jean: ‘I’m Here for a Reason’

May 15, 2024 | Jeffrey Good

MDAA’s Nakya Jean: ‘I’m Here for a Reason’ image

Nakya Jean has big dreams: enlisting in the army, becoming a nurse, helping to build a hospital in her home country of Haiti, opening a club in the United States where people can forget about their cares. 

All those dreams require, as a foundation, a high school diploma. But for Nakya, circumstances at the traditional public school where she was a student seemed to be conspiring against her. 

There was violence in the hallways, a social scene that pressured her to skip class and teachers who didn’t have the time to give her the one-on-one help she needed. 

“I used to ask this teacher for help. He would look at me, saying, ‘Here’s the book. The answer’s in the book,’ ” she recalled. “That’s the main reason I was skipping — they wouldn’t help me.” 

Nakya wanted something better for herself, and one day she heard a classmate talking about Miami-Dade Acceleration Academies (MDAA), which offered a flexible, personalized path to her diploma. 

She decided to check it out.

Instead of crowds and chaos, she found a calm learning environment. The other students — who are called “graduation candidates” to remind them of their goals — are interested in getting work done rather than making mischief. 

“Getting into Acceleration Academies is better for me, not hanging with the wrong crowd,” she says. 

Best of all, a team of educators stands ready to help her at every turn. “Here at Acceleration, they say, ‘You don’t understand something? Come here, let’s work on it, step by step.’ That’s what I love about it.” 

Math coach Erick Velis works patiently with her to overcome hurdles in that challenging subject. Graduation candidate advocate Bryan Villagran picks her up when she’s feeling down. “Keep going, keep moving forward,” they tell her. “If you don’t move forward, you’re in this one little box.” 

With that kind of encouragement, and her own determination, Nakya is making steady progress toward her dream of graduation. After earning her diploma, she wants to enlist in the U.S. Air Force, to serve her new country and build skills that will serve her in life. 

“I feel like the Air Force will make me stronger,” she says. “I want to feel like I’m here for a reason. I want to make a big impact.” 


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