In 2005, we were invited to Gary, Indiana by hometown leaders to start a public charter school. Residents wanted to do something to help improve the educational outcomes in the city. They witnessed annual high school graduation rates hovering around 50%, and college Associate and Bachelor degrees were and still are almost non-existent (only 5% and 6% of households in Gary have one of these degrees respectively). We believed we could create a school that produces on-time high school graduates AND students who experienced and earned a serious number of college credits, indeed earn their Associate Degree, while enrolled with us. Additionally, we believed if we did our job right, our students would graduate and go on to complete a four-year college degree, too.
Today, we have proof positive that our model works.
We have nearly 100% graduation rates each of the past five years, our students are earning an average of 13 college credits before graduating from our high school, and we are increasing the number of Gary homes with Associate and Bachelor degrees.
Nyesha, pictured here with her proud mother, graduated in 2014 from our high school on time, having earned her two-year college Associate degree while enrolled in our school. Because of her college experience and great work, Ball State University offered her scholarships and she will graduate in December–just two years later–with her Bachelor degree in actuarial science and a minor in psychology. She will have only $1500 of college debt, too.
And the story gets better as Nyesha’s mother was inspired by her daughter and decided to earn her Associate degree, too. Mom now has a scholarship to complete her 4-year degree at Purdue Calumet.
These are just two examples of an idea becoming reality and paying dividends after a lot of hard work–by both the school and the students and their families. No, we haven’t done everything right. We’ve made our share of mistakes. And today, we continue to improve our model.
It’s rewarding to work with Gary leadership and to see families embrace our model and the opportunity to change the trajectory of their own futures. Parents tell me they used to think I was crazy. Perhaps I am. Afterall, we have the only school in all of NW Indiana to graduate students who have already earned their Associate degree. Now, families are believers.
Nyesha and others who have earned their Associate degree while attending our high school are inspiring our current students to do more. Indeed, Nyesha’s younger sister is scheduled to graduate in May of 2017 from our high school with her Associate degree in hand, too. Our program is growing. I’m really excited about the future. Over the next few months, I will profile more of our students and their success. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do. Their success gives meaning to what we do.
Thank you for your support!