This morning I attended the second LAYC Career Academy Public Charter School (LAYCCA) graduation and it was a truly wonderful event. There was not a dry eye in the room. Eight young people who started as “disconnected youth” graduated with their IT and medical assistant certificates and today they are on their way to college and permanent employment. Several proudly accepted their graduation certificates with their young children by their side. LAYCCA staff, LAYC staff, their families, alumni, students and community members applauded their accomplishments. Our students graduated with an awesome sense of possibility for their future accomplishments.
What impressed me the most is the notion that the LAYC Career Academy is so much more than a school. Every single young person spoke about the love they feel for the staff, the connections they now have, the doors that were opened, and encouragement they received. This encouragement is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year! When the LAYC designed the LAYC Career Academy we knew that the challenges our youth face require a great deal more than just passing the GED and getting a vocational certificate. It needed to be a place where youth could build their confidence, find support, safety and love in order to overcome the many challenges in their young daily lives. And I can proudly say, two years in, it is all that and even more, than I could have ever imagined.
We have some fantastic partners including The Advisory Board Company, Care First, Whitman Walker, Mary’s Center, Clinica del Pueblo, Community of Hope, Mayer Brown, LAYC, the Venture Philanthropy Partners YouthConnect Partners, the Office of the State Superintendent, the Public Charter School Board, the Community Schools effort, Trinity College, UDC, and Bard College. We could not succeed without all of you.
I would like to share a few words from our commencement speaker Brianne Nadeau’s speech. Brianne is the Democratic Candidate for Ward 1 City Council. She said “What I really want to talk to you about today, is power. I want each of the graduates to close your eyes for just a moment and think about how you got here today. First remember how you learned about the LAYC Career Academy, and who encouraged you to apply. Then remember how hard you worked in your first weeks, your first months here, and what it took for you to be here today, graduating and ready for the next steps in your life.
And I want you to feel, to really feel, how powerful you are. Because every step of the way, you made decisions that led you to this day. You had the power to go one way or the other, and every day you got up and used your power to choose this path.” Her parting words were "So I’ll leave you with this: when we’re finished here today, I hope you leave this room excited for what is yet to come. Because just outside those doors, your future is waiting to meet you. It has been waiting for you all along."
I believe that the words of one of our graduates Michaela DuBissette’s say it all. Michaela has been a student at LAYCCA for the past two years. She wrote:
"When I began attending the LAYCCA in August of 2012 it had been a while since I was in a formal school setting and I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to keep attending. When I found out that I would have to take classes on basic subjects I was worried and a little annoyed, because it had been a while since I had gone over most subjects and I thought I would immediately get to start working on those free opportunities that I had read about on LAYCCA’s flyer.
LAYCCA has been different from other schools I have attended because of the individual attention that is given to each student and the effort put into offering support. Maybe it’s because of the small size of the school, but the teachers and staff are always keeping in touch with every student. They know that most of the students have lives outside of school with difficulties and responsibilities. They are open to being flexible and working out a plan that allows us to balance our personal life and education.
My experience at LAYCCA has been encouraging and confirming. Encouraging, because that is just part of the message of being and striving to be G.R.E.A.T. For me it was taking a step forward after being still too long. I completed the Dual Enrollment Pathway by attending Trinity Washington University. I took two classes and got six credits as a non-degree student. It was an enlightening experience that showed me what was expected and what it was like to take college level courses. I was also thankful that the core subject classes here had gotten me back into practicing essay writing and note taking, because without reviewing those skills I would have been a little less prepared for both classes. Because of my success with Dual Enrollment, I am now enrolled at UDC Community College and will be starting classes later this month for the FALL 2014 semester.
My advice for any current student is to really examine why you wanted to enroll here and to remind yourself of the motivations that you have for pursuing whatever you are trying to accomplish. There are a lot of opportunities that are being offered to you, make sure to take advantage of all of them and make your time as a student here a fruitful one.
In closing, I’d like to thank all of the teachers that I have had because I see you guys working to help students all day, every day. Last, but not least, I would like to thank my mom for bringing home LAYCCA’s flyer and telling me to get out and go back to school instead of just looking for a low level job. She knew that I wanted to go to college eventually and that LAYCCA was a place where I could get the needed encouragement and support to pursue my goal of furthering my education."
Congratulations to our graduates and looking forward to our new school year.