On Friday, June 2, the 201 graduates of Main Street High/Mavericks in Kissimmee, FL; as well as family, and friends were the beneficiaries of a powerful and inspirational address by school alum – Christian Sanchez. His candid assessment of his life, prior to attending Main Street High, and how he has influenced by the school’s teachers and staff, is a strong testament to the work being done in Florida, and in all of our Bridgescape Academies.
The following is the text of Christian’s remarks to the graduates.
When I arrived at Main Street High, my life changed. I went from being a lost, punk kid, to a young man with hope for a successful and happy future. I grew up being labeled a troublemaker, being told I’d never succeed. But I’ve learned that nothing is impossible and that God has a purpose for each of our lives.
As a young teenager, I used to roam around Kissimmee with groups of friends, doing nothing productive, wondering what my purpose in life was. I first arrived at this school with a 1.8 GPA, 8 or 9 credits, and even a criminal background. I was 15 years old . . . My previous school asked me to leave, because of a pending felony charge. I was a depressed teenager and I felt like a failure, like a lost cause—I felt like a reject.
But then something happened… I came to Main Street High looking for a second chance at life. I had recently given my life to Christ at the age of 15, and I was determined to prove the world wrong, that I was no longer a lost cause—and that even a punk kid like me, with a bit of low self-esteem and a weird personality; even a punk kid like me could become a world changer, so help me God. And Main Street High did give me a second chance.
Main Street High is unique. This school gave me a clean slate and opportunities that no one else would give me. The faculty never saw me as just another number; they showed love to me and never judged me for my past. I felt like family here. I could walk into the guidance counselor’s office at any time, Ms. Heather Greene at the time, and bug her to death for anything I needed. And I knew without a doubt that if I needed help with a class, I could just go to Blue Room and bug Mr. Bodner. I knew for sure that he would teach me anything I needed to learn. I thank God for bringing me to this school, where a punk kid like me could find hope for the future, and a new beginning.
Here’s some of what the school allowed me to achieve: In my first year at Main Street High, I finished 11 classes. I went from troublemaker to honor-roll student. This school put me through the dual enrollment program, where my first semester of college was paid in full. I went from arriving at Main Street High with 9 credits, a 1.8 GPA, and a criminal background at 15 years old, to graduating from Main Street High with a 3.5 GPA with honors, and some college credits just before I turned 17. No one else believed in me, but Main Street High did.
This alone was a miracle to me. But it wasn’t just about graduating high school; Main Street High opened doors for me even after graduation. This school opened doors for the future. I went on to join the honors program at Valencia College, for a full scholarship towards my Associates Degree, and was also involved in Student Government, and an academic honors society. Just after graduating from Main Street High, I completed a summer internship with a local congressman, despite my earlier juvenile record. Within a year of graduating from Main Street High, I received personal recognition from the Governor of Florida. In a televised press release at Valencia, the Governor shared some of my story. I went on to obtain my Associates Degree with honors and a 4.0 GPA. I also gained a transfer scholarship to Harvard University’s Extension School where I’m currently enrolled and finishing my Bachelor’s degree. I’m studying government and finance, and I’m pursuing law school and my own investment firm in the near future.
It still blows my mind that a young kid with my background would even be considered for the opportunities I’ve been given, much of which I owe to Main Street High. But school is just one part of my story. . . Ever since my life changed when I was 15, I’ve been involved in the youth ministry at The Rock Church. The people here have showed me love and guidance throughout my journey, and even when the world called me a reject, this church treated me like a son. I’m 19 now and I know that nothing is impossible with God.
No matter where we’ve come from, what mistakes we’ve made, I know God has a plan and a purpose for us.
On June 6, 112 graduates received their high school diplomas from Palm Beach Central High/Mavericks; and on June 7, another 91 graduates will receive their diplomas from North Miami Mavericks.
Upon the conclusion of the American Revolution, our newly independent nation began to place an emphasis on public education; and by 1870, every state had free elementary schools, and the United States had one of the highest literacy rates in the world. However, it was not until the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that the doors of every public school in our country were opened to all students, regardless of their race or socio-economic circumstances.
Historically, we have seen that change has not often come quickly to our public education system. Local school boards, that generally control the funding and operations, hold firm to the belief that they know what is best for the children in their communities. Yet, in the late 1980’s, many prominent and respected educators and public officials called for the reform of the public schools by establishing "charter schools" or "schools of choice”; and in 1991, Minnesota became the first state to pass a charter school law.
This week, as we mark “National Charter Schools Week”, 3 million students attend more than 6,800 charter schools in 43 states. The vast majority of these students are economically disadvantaged and racial or ethnic minorities.
Volumes of research data show that charter students are learning more than they would have had they stayed in their traditional public schools. But just as important, traditional public schools - faced with competition from charters - have embraced many of the innovative approaches being advanced in charters, and have improved as well.
From the advent of the charter school movement, there is no organization – be it for-profit or non-profit – that has played a more significant role in advancing distinctive and innovative charter schools than EdisonLearning. In fact, since 1995, EdisonLearning has helped to educate more charter school students than any other for-profit of not-for-profit organization in the nation.
In addition to education and administrative services we have provided to our 80 charter school partners, we also raised hundreds of millions of dollars of private capital that enabled dozens of charter schools nationwide to build or acquire facilities, books, computers, and get off the ground.
Our portfolio of charter schools includes some of the most successful, such as:
- San Jose-Edison Academy, West Covina, CA – a National Blue Ribbon School
- Charles R. Drew Charter, Atlanta, GA – the first charter in Atlanta, and Georgia Charter School of the Year
- Duluth Edison Charter Academy, Duluth, MN - consistently among the highest performing schools in the state – and has been recognized as a Minnesota Celebration School
- Charter School for Applied Technologies (CSAT), Buffalo, NY – the largest charter school in New York
- Renaissance Academy, Phoenixville, PA – named National Charter School of the Year
- Friendship Academy, Washington, DC – Highest performing charter in DC
These represent just of few of the charter schools nationwide for which EdisonLearning helped to establish a solid educational model and learning culture that would be sustained over many years. Throughout our history, our purpose has not been to develop charter relationships that run indefinitely, but to guide charter schools onto a path of self-sufficiency. As Donald Hense, head of the Friendship Academies stated, EdisonLearning “gave us the wings to fly on our own.”
As public education continues to adjust to economic and competitive realities, our organization remains steadfast in our support of the charter school movement in this country; just as we are also proud of the work we do with our district school partners.
We have always been committed to forging strong partnerships that transform students’ lives, transform their schools and uplift communities. With the continued dedication of our entire team, we will continue to do so for years to come.
National Dropout Prevention Center/Network Announces EdisonLearning as Model Programs Database Sponsor
The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPC/N) announces EdisonLearning as the sponsor for its dropout prevention, recovery and reentry model programs database. The database is a major national resource for educators and those who work with at-risk youth. The sponsorship allows for growth of the database from the current 357 programs to a projected 500 within a year.
The model programs database is a searchable resource of research-based programs and information that is accessed through www.dropoutprevention.org/modelprograms/. The database is available for schools, organizations and program administrators to review for opportunities to implement specific model programs, to enhance existing programs or for inspiration in creating new initiatives for dropout prevention, intervention, reentry and recovery. Researchers, policymakers, parents and students also can browse and use information from NDPC/N’s Model Programs Database sponsored by EdisonLearning.
Beyond the advantage of being searchable, programs in the database are rated based on evidence of evaluation and effectiveness. Overall program ratings are based on the number of years the program has been in existence, evaluation design, and empirical evidence demonstrating that the program prevents or reduces school dropout, improves graduation rates, or impacts a factor strongly related to dropout or on-time graduation. Four rating levels range from the highest level which indicates the model program exhibits a strong level of effectiveness to the lowest which indicates insufficient evidence of effectiveness.
“The Model Programs Database sponsored by EdisonLearning provides program planners in schools and organizations with a tool to pre view interventions and activities others have used and to access those programs that can then be evaluated for meeting their needs,” said Dr. Sandy Addis, Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network. “We are fortunate that EdisonLearning has chosen to support the work of the NDPC/N since it allows us to continue to expand and update the much utilized database with additional programs and increased functionality.”
Thom Jackson, CEO of EdisonLearning and NDPN Board member added, “The core values of EdisonLearning align closely with those of the NDPC/N. Working together means both organizations have an increased opportunity to help young Americans achieve their goal of earning a high school diploma. Through our combine efforts, we are confident that graduation rates will increase nationwide.”
About National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPC/N)
Established in 1986 with a mission to reduce dropout rates, NDPC/N shares solutions for student success and dropout prevention through its clearinghouse function, active research and evaluation projects, publications, and a variety of professional development activities and conferences. The organization’s website—www.dropoutprevention.org—is the nation’s leading resource in providing effective, research-based solutions to engaging students and reducing dropout. The NDPC/N is housed in the College of Education at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina.
EdisonLearning is a leading international educational services provider, and the largest minority-owned education company in the country. For a quarter century, it has provided innovative solutions to help students learn, achieve, and succeed.
Growing up in an undeserved background, Patrick didn't have many opportunities for college. Through participating in the LifeBridge Mentoring Program, Patrick embraces friendship and pursues his college education which allows him to explore his passion and succeed in life. Patrick's mentor James Turner is helping him to follow-up with his college application to Central State and continues to help provide Patrick with support for his high school to college transition.
Patrick has received a band scholarship after attending our college tour to Central State University. He auditioned by playing the drums and received a band scholarship on the spot.
The video below, which is featured in this month’s LifeBridge newsletter, is a remarkable presentation about the journey Patrick has taken to achieve his educational goals. (Click on the video to watch, or go to the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/mktnrwhxat5hhsh/Bridgescape Draft 6HQ.mp4?dl=0
With assistance from the EdisonLearning Grants Department and Grants Manager Paula Asbury, the Bridgescape Academies plan to continue the mentoring program next school year, with plans to include Urban Early College Network Bridgescape Academy and to expand partnerships in all three cities: Columbus, Cleveland and Dayton.
Photo caption: Thom Jackson (fourth from right) joins Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt (far right), Gary School Board members, and Roosevelt students at the Indiana State Board of Education meeting yesterday in Indianapolis.
The State Board of Education gave its approval Wednesday to a partnership between the Gary Community School Corp. and EdisonLearning Inc. to operate the Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
The plan goes into effect in July. The resolution, with performance goals for five years, approved Wednesday stated Roosevelt's designation as a state turnaround academy would remain.
Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and EdisonLearning CEO Thom Jackson told the state board they are moving forward with a transitional model to improve achievement and the career potential for students.
Roosevelt's entanglement with the state began in 2011 when six straight years of F grades triggered the state to label it as a turnaround target. The state hired EdisonLearning to run the school for five years and it's being paid with Gary's share of tuition support money for Roosevelt, about $3 million to $4 million annually.
"The climate, safety and the graduation rate has improved," Pruitt said.
The school's test scores have improved, and its graduation rate improved from 41 percent in 2012 to 57 percent last year. Today, 85 percent of graduates are enrolled in two- or four-year college or vocational programs, compared to 60 percent in 2012. Attendance has increased from 71 percent to 92 percent.
Under the agreement, EdisonLearning will continue running the school, but both parties would oversee academics and performance goals.
Together, they plan to transform Roosevelt into an innovation network school under the state law that established state turnaround guidelines.