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St. Lucie Grads: ‘Never Give Up’

June 12, 2024 | Jeffrey Good

St. Lucie Grads: ‘Never Give Up’ image

St. Lucie Acceleration Academies (SLAA) celebrated its latest class of graduates at a ceremony in which Acceleration Academies CEO Kelli Campbell and others applauded the young people who had pushed through challenges to earn their diplomas and launch their adult lives. 

“Today, we gather to celebrate a momentous occasion. This isn't just any graduation; it's a testament to resilience, determination, and the power of embracing one's unique path,” said Campbell, who grew up in rural Illinois and became a first-generation high school graduate before going on to college and a successful career as an executive.  

“To each of you graduates, I extend my heartfelt congratulations. You came to St. Lucie Acceleration Academies seeking something different. Some of you needed an environment that understood you better, that offered flexibility and personalized support. Some of you sought a place where your voices could be heard, where you could learn at your own pace and in your own way. And look at where it has brought you — to this day and this achievement.”

IMG_4519Each grad had a powerful story to tell about getting their high school careers back on track with the flexible scheduling and personalized support offered by SLAA.  

“They take the time and the effort to put into each and everyone of us,” said grad Antaizjah “Tay” McNeil, who is planning to study nursing in college. “I’m not lying — without them, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today.” 

  She had to drop out of a traditional high school after her mother suffered heart troubles and Tay stayed home to take care of her younger brother and sister, who were then ages 7 and 9. She cooked them meals, did their laundry and made sure they got to and from school.

“Basically, I was their second mom,” says Tay, now 19. “I was like that little bottle of sunshine for them.” 

At her former high school, Tay struggled not just with a schedule that would have made it impossible to help around the house, but also with an environment that made it hard for her to concentrate. 

“I don’t like to be around a lot of people,” she says. “Everyone’s bumping into each other. That school was always so rowdy that I had a hard time focusing.” 

Tay discovered SLAA, which works in partnership with St. Lucie Public Schools to provide a flexible, non-traditional path to graduation for learners who need one. She was delighted to find a quiet, studious learning space with comfortable chairs, cafe-style tables and teachers and coaches who stood ready to help during and after traditional school hours. 

She credits Tay Williams, her graduation candidate advocate, with providing steady encouragement even at times when she was struggling with mastering her coursework while also shouldering big responsibilities at home. 

“He constantly made sure I was staying on track. He was on me 24/7 about getting my work done,” says the new grad. “He would not let me give up on myself.” 

SLAA Graduation May 2024

Also inspiring was English coach Allison Foster and career/life coach Laura Husnander. “I love Ms. Laura. She warms my heart a lot. She reminds me of my grandmother; she’s very sweet and understanding.” 

Tay recently got a job at a nursing home and plans to study for her nursing assistant certification and, later, earn a college degree as a registered nurse. “I really love it,” she says of working in healthcare.

She can’t say enough about the support she found at St. Lucie Acceleration Academies. “I’m grateful for them. They were always there for me,” Tay says. 

And she was there for herself. “I had to teach myself, never give up.” 

St. Lucie Acceleration Academies (SLAA) serves students in St. Lucie County, FL., ages 14-20 in grades 9-12. SLAA offers a blended learning model that allows students to work in person and at home, year-round. With extended on-site hours, students focus on one course at a time and can complete coursework around their schedule. When working from home, students can receive remote support to help keep them on track in their courses. Our unique approach meets each student where they are and provides them the support they need. LEARN MORE >>>

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