Acceleration Academies Give Students a Second Chance - NBC 6 South Florida

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Acceleration Academies Give Students a Second Chance

In two years of partnership with Miami-Dade County Schools, Acceleration Academies has graduated 90 students, and almost all of them have gone on to college, trade school, or the military.

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    Acceleration Academies Give Students a Second Chance

    Acceleration Academies has three locations in Miami-Dade County and currently serves about 500 students, all of whom are high school dropouts. NBC 6's Ari Odzer reports.

    (Published Wednesday, May 22, 2019)

    Acceleration Academies could accurately be called, "Second Chance High School." It has three locations in Miami-Dade County and currently serves about 500 students, all of whom are high school dropouts.

    "For whatever reason, they weren't successful in their traditional high school," explained Gina Montagnino-Fiske, Acceleration Academies' district director.

    The reasons for dropping out of high school vary greatly.

    "I kind of just needed some validation that it was OK to be myself and it was hard because they couldn't understand," Nikolas, who is transgender, explained.

    "I had a drug issue, mostly it was drugs, yeah," said Guadalupe.

    Marcus said he started to get in trouble and lost focus.

    "I just had a difficult time mentally," he said.

    At Accelerated Academies, the students are put on a track to complete their credits (one class at a time), pass the state-mandated exams, and earn a high school diploma instead of a GED.

    "The diploma just gives young adults much better options in life, better job opportunities, routes to university or college so we want to put them on a path so they can be as successful as possible," said Montagnino-Fiske.

    The kids even get prepped to take the SAT to prepare for college, all with help from teachers and counselors.

    "Everyone knows who you are, we know your name, we know your story, we know where you are as far as graduating," Montagnino-Fiske said.

    All the students have a unique story, a different reason for dropping out of high school in the first place, but they also share the same feeling of gratitude at having another opportunity to get a high school diploma.

    "Dropping out really takes a toll on you regardless, at first it's all fun and it's all cool because you don't have to go to school and then you see everyone else graduate and you see them actually go to college and wow, they left me behind," Guadalupe Perez said.

    Stress from Nikolas Montolio's gender transition led him to drop out. Now he says he feels safe and has his sights set on attending culinary school.

    "I'm proud of myself for finally achieving and deciding not to just fail at life and taking another chance at going back to school," Nikolas said.

    When his best friend died, a part of Marcus Alexis died, too. So this school is his lifeline.

    "Without this, what I be doing? I probably would be doing nothing, to be honest," Marcus said.

    In two years of partnership with Miami-Dade County Schools, Acceleration Academies has graduated 90 students, and almost all of them have gone on to college, trade school, or the military.

    "For most of these kids, it's the first time they've ever met success in their entire life," Montagnino-Fiske said.

    That success comes at a cost, of course, because these kids have taken a hard road, but there's no money involved, no tuition.

    Acceleration Academies is free of charge.

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