Success Academy Offers Three Nontraditional Pathways for Diverse Students
Students who, for a variety of reasons, need a nontraditional route to graduation now have three paths to consider at Success Academy: the Virtual Learning Center, the Re-engagement Center, and the GED Program.
Each program provides broad encouragement and individualized support as students prepare for life after Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS).
Virtual Learning Center
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, FCPS offered a Virtual Learning Academy (VLA), based at its Russell Cave Road warehouse facility. When VLA closed, students who did not want to return to their districted schools enrolled instead in the new Virtual Learning Center at Success Academy, where they continue with scheduled online instruction. This fall’s enrollment is about 260 students in grades 6-12.
“The main benefit is for kids who have outside activities that interfere with the school day,” said April Clement, the academy’s professional growth and effectiveness coach. Examples range from a motorcyclist competing in Spain and a young actor filming in Los Angeles to a boy visiting grandparents in Iraq. Virtual learning might also appeal to medically fragile students who can function better at home. “It’s very personal,” Clement added. “Our teachers know our students.”
Choosing the small, close-knit community made sense for senior Sierra Riddle. “I struggle a lot with anxiety. At (my former) school, my learning was hindered. I feel safe learning here and have more ability to express myself,” she explained. Now in her second virtual year, Sierra serves as an ambassador for the program – helping to plan student activities and showing visitors around the building.
Housed in the former Imani church on Georgetown Road, the Virtual Learning Center uses classroom and office space, a science lab, a gym, a cafeteria, and a kitchen for the Cooking Club. Academically, the level of expectation and accountability resembles that of the traditional classroom, but it all takes place online. Students have live lessons with certified teachers using district-provided Chromebooks and the Canvas learning management system. Daily attendance, participation, and completion of assignments are required. Options include Advanced Placement (AP) courses and dual-credit courses. The staff, who offer 1:1 tutoring, post grades weekly in Infinite Campus. The 16 virtual teachers work in our building, and the guidance counselor has an office on site. Students also come in to take the ACT and state testing in person.
For seventh grader Amber-Joy Milligan, the pandemic prompted a move from SCAPA at Bluegrass. “During COVID, my parents really wanted me to stay home,” she recalled. “Then I found that NTI (nontraditional instruction) was very comfortable for me, being at home doing school.”
The flexibility is also a plus for Amber-Joy. For instance, she recently spent three weeks in Florida for a family emergency but was able to keep up with her schoolwork online. “We get clear instructions, and my teachers are very kind,” she said.
Amber-Joy participates in the Debate Club at school, but now takes piano lessons and dance classes on the side. “I miss my friends from SCAPA but still stay in touch,” she said.
Did you know? The Virtual Learning Center follows an 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. schedule and the regular FCPS academic calendar. While the program does offer some clubs and occasional dances, the students can also participate in sports and other extracurricular activities at their districted middle or high school.
Coming up: At Premiere Night, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 6, prospective students and families can meet the teachers and find out more about the Virtual Learning Center. We will accept applications for the 2023-24 school year starting Jan. 7. Visit the district’s application page for details, email April Clement, or call (859) 381-3795.
When Success Academy first opened, the focus was solely on students ages 16 to 21 who are at least a year behind on high school credits and are not on track to graduate. While the Success umbrella has now broadened to include virtual and GED students, the Re-engagement Center is still a safety net for those teenagers who need an alternative path to college or the workforce. The idea is to reconnect often-apathetic students and equip them with skills to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
“We want to capture those students and bring them in and let them see a different way of schooling,” said Kim Beatty, a transition specialist who oversees admissions and enrollment. One strategy is to get them thinking, “What will my life be like after this is over?”
Eighteen-year-old J.T. Kenney found that at Henry Clay High School, he simply let his classwork slide and fell behind his grade level. The individual attention he now receives has put him back on track. “It’s a good fit. I’m almost done, and this school has definitely helped me a lot,” said J.T., who shifted to Success two years ago. “If you’re struggling in a regular high school, it has benefits. You can go at your own pace and even graduate early,” he added.
The Re-engagement Center uses a hybrid model of online learning and teacher-directed instruction. Students also have a coach and a weekly check-in to monitor their progress. Flexible scheduling can accommodate those later busy with part-time jobs, internships, and career and technical training. Our staff also drops by work sites to touch base with students’ bosses. Incentive-based activities, like a field trip to a pumpkin patch, are another strategy. “When you put in the work, then you can be rewarded, and that helps build motivation,” Beatty said.
For Emoniey Garner, the drama at her former high school (where she should have graduated last spring) hampered her in the classroom. She transferred to Success Academy in October 2021 with only 7.5 credits, “and I’ve been working on myself ever since.” Emoniey now has 18.5 of the required 22 credits, so she is almost there. The Re-engagement Center teachers have really motivated her to earn that diploma. “They push me to keep going and going farther,” Emoniey said. “They keep you on the right path and push you to success.”
Did you know? Our re-engagement program follows a slightly different calendar than the rest of FCPS, with an earlier start date and a longer academic year to keep students connected to school.
Resources: We accept applications year-round and invite qualified students for an interview on campus. For more information, please email Kim Beatty or call (859) 381-3795.
The GED pathway, which FCPS is developing in partnership with Bluegrass Community & Technical College, will provide an alternative to a high school diploma. The new program, which will accept students year-round, launches in 2023. Please watch for details on the Success Academy webpage. You may also email FCPS secondary support specialist Chris Salyers.
Did you know? Students who do not earn a high school diploma may instead pursue a GED diploma or certificate. The General Educational Development test (GED) is a battery of five exams designed by the American Council on Education to measure high school equivalency. Visit the GED options webpage on our FCPS site for more information.
Success Academy resource for families:
Program Director Janice Wyatt-Ross, (859) 381-3795
Posted Nov. 30, 2022