A Little Support Goes a Long Way: The Academy for Success
By Alison Underwood for the Santa Barbara Education Foundation
A few years back, a student came to Dos Pueblos High School angry and ready to fight with anybody who crossed her path. She had lost her mother to drugs and her father had abandoned her, leaving her in the care of her grandmother. Rarely did she ever go to class.
When The Academy for Success (previously known as The Academy at Dos Pueblos) stepped in, everything changed. She had people in her life she could trust—fellow students who shared her pain and adults that she could count on. With this new wealth of support and healing, she graduated high school and was accepted to Cal State Channel Islands.
For her and so many other at-risk students, The Academy for Success is a life-changing program. Students who get lost in the education system, often because of social and economic factors that are out of their control, get another chance for future success. Explains Academy teacher Kelly Choi; “They go from that one teacher who is watching them all the time, to six teachers and they get lost. It’s no fault of the teachers—it’s just the system we live in. We move fast.”
The Academy is a voluntary three-year program that guides at-risk students through high school. In their first year, the students learn how to conduct themselves in class, practice respect, and prepare to learn. By the second year, students learn to connect with their school and community through clubs, sports, internships, and volunteering. Finally, their last year prepares them for life after high school. Every Academy student has graduated, and most find success in city colleges, four-year colleges, and vocational schools. The GPAs of at-risk students have gone from F’s to C’s, B’s, and A’s, with more participation in advanced classes. Since the inception of The Academy, discipline levels have been reduced by over 95 percent.
“They’ve taught me that, no matter how you look on the outside, there is always someone inside who wants something better for themselves,” says Choi. “They teach me about bravery, and trust, and faith. And they teach me that with love and kindness, anybody can transform and be successful.”
If you would like to donate to this program, you can do so through the Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s website. Please specify in your request that you would like your donation to be directed to The Academy for Success.