ABOVE PHOTO: Jacques Cherry celebrates his graduation from Excel Academy with his parents Everett Taylor and Reba Cherry.
“Don’t ever give up,” was the message Philadelphia School District Superintendent Arlene Ackerman gave more than 200 students, once deemed potential drop-outs, as they received their high school diplomas today at the Camelot Schools graduation ceremony held at the University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium.
Nearly 100 percent of these extraordinary students are moving on to post-secondary programs – college, technical schools or the military. Ninety-six percent of the students who began the school year graduated today. This is a remarkable record considering that some of these students had left school and others were on the verge of leaving school for disciplinary or academic reasons before they enrolled in Camelot.
“The School District created a relationship with Camelot so we could help students like you, students who had lost their way and needed a solid framework to get back on track” Ackerman, the keynote speaker at the graduation, said.
Most of today’s graduates came from Camelot’s two Excel Academies in Northeast Philadelphia. Excel’s innovative programs help teens that lack motivation and are behind academically – usually about two years – complete an accelerated curriculum and graduate in three years. The program proved so successful that Dr. Ackerman expanded the Excel’s student base from 250 to more than 600 this year.
“Excel Academy changed my perspective on life,” said Jacques Cherry, one of today’s graduates. “The people at Excel are like my family. They opened doors for me. I never saw myself applying to college, but they saw my grades and they didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Jacques, who has been baking at home since he was 10, will be attending the Institute of Baking and Pastry next year. Although Excel does not have a culinary program, they arranged for him to study culinary arts at Edison .
Camelot also operates Shallcross, located at 3801 Woodhaven Rd. and Camelot Academy (formerly Daniel Boone) at 1435 N. 26th Street to help students who have extreme disciplinary problems turn their lives around and graduate. Most of the students at the alternative schools return to their neighborhood schools when their difficulties are resolved, although 15 from Shallcross and 24 from Camelot Academy graduated with the Excel students today. Two more Camelot Academy students will graduate after completing summer school.
The Camelot Schools are privately managed. They work in partnership with the School District to provide an expertise which augments the traditional curriculum offered by the public schools.