Passport Academy Charter School is modeled after a school in Chicago called Youth Connection Charter School (YCCS) Virtual High School. Many students have had uplifting success stories. Here are three young people who have overcome tough odds to make the grade.
Christina C. was determined to graduate high school. But even a driven student can face numerous hurdles that chip away at the goal, leading to frustration and often just giving up.
That could have easily been Christina's fate. After her mother lost her job, the family became homeless, forcing Christina to help care for her younger sisters and brothers. She also ended up going from one school to another in Chicago. And even though she persevered, she was informed during her senior year that she did not have enough math and science credits to graduate.
"I was so frustrated going to different schools and then being told I didn't have enough credits. At that point, I felt like giving up and probably would have just eventually gotten my GED," she said. But deep down, Christina knew that was not the route to take. "I really don't like to give up [easily], and I knew that if I did give up my life probably would have been a cycle of giving up."
At that point, a school administrator told Christina about a new public schooling option—Youth Connection Charter School Virtual High School—that could be a path to graduation.
"When I found out about the YCCS virtual program, my mother said she thought it was a good idea and told me she would help me get through it. The school even provided bus fare so I could attend—and it was the best decision," she said.
That June, Christina graduated YCCS Virtual High School with honors. In fact, her academic success and newfound confidence spurred her to apply—and to be accepted—to Trinity Christian College, with a partial scholarship.
"I was shocked. Here I was, ready to give up, and I graduated with As. Now I know I can do anything. I can go to college and make my dreams come true," she said.
"I liked having classroom support and working on the computer,” she said. “Having the teachers made it easy for me because I was getting all the individual help I needed—everybody was there for me and made sure I did what was needed in order to graduate. They really cared."
Like countless inner-city youth that run into trouble early in their teens, Tyree F. was on his way to a life that promised little chance for success. Bouncing back and forth between Catholic and public schools and struggling with his studies, Tyree ran afoul of the law, which earned him a year-and-a-half prison term at age 17.
Still, Tyree valued education and attempted to earn his GED during his time in prison. But he found that he couldn't focus and so was unable to "turn things around." When he was released at age 19, his mother told him about Youth Connection Charter School Virtual High School as a means to earn his diploma. Tyree followed her advice and enrolled as a junior, successfully fulfilling his credits. He is now on his way to completing his coursework and graduating in June.
Working At His Own Pace
"It was hard for me [to adjust] when I first started, but taking the classes on the computer allowed me to study at my own pace, and then I started to breeze though it," said Tyree. He rides two buses each morning to get to Malcolm X Community College where the YCCS Virtual High School is located. He spends five hours per day there—three hours in class, two hours in independent study.
Tyree attributes his success to the combination of online learning and individual teacher attention that "helps me break it all down so I can do the work." For example, Tyree admits that his writing needs improvement. By completing writing assignments at his own pace on the computer, he can spend more time structuring his thoughts and working on his language and writing skills. Coupled with an instructor's guidance, Tyree says now he can "make my thoughts come alive, so people can understand what I am trying to say."
Future Looks Bright
Looking back, Tyree admits that if he hadn't attended YCCS Virtual High School, he would not be finishing school. "I needed help and this school helped me move forward—especially the teachers who worked with me when I needed it," he said, adding, "When I graduate, I want to go to college and pursue psychology or something in the medical field, maybe nursing. Now I can move forward with my life. I feel good about things."
The idea of not graduating on time is demoralizing for a senior, especially when the diploma is just within reach.
Such was the case with Diedah C. After switching to a new school with different requirements, she found herself two courses short of graduating.
Aware of Diedah's plight, a high school administrator told her that YCCS Virtual High School could help her graduate on time. Diedah enrolled to make up the two courses, but was so excited by other course options that she graduated with more than the necessary credits.
"I took two trains to get to Malcolm X Community College, where the school is located, because I wanted to graduate with my class. YCCS helped me make up the credits in half the time," Diedah said.
Individual Attention, Personal Focus, Less Pressure
Diedah said that the combination of dynamic online learning coupled with teacher support allowed her to focus on her lessons, both at home and in the classroom.
"I found I had more time to work on my classes at home and at school because I was focused. If I didn't understand something, I could just send my teacher an e-mail and get a response. It definitely was the individual attention that made it easy to make up the credits in half the time," she explained.
Taking classes online also relieved the pressure Diedah often felt in a traditional classroom. "[In my old school] sometimes I was hesitant to let a teacher know I didn't understand something,” she admitted. Because there were so many students in the classroom, I couldn't get the individual attention I needed. The online courses really take the pressure off because you can take your time till you understand it all."
Aside from making up her credits, Diedah took personal enrichment and finance courses. "I really liked the finance course because it taught me how to save and manage my money—something I'll need when I go off to college," she laughed.