Academy Students Make Good on Second Chances

A very special commencement ceremony recently took place at the Capital City Hall of Distinction as 29 adults graduated from Academy of Hope, an adult public charter school that opened three decades ago for students in need of second chances.

Sporting red caps and gowns, the graduates strode down the aisle to the applause of cheering family and friends who gathered at the Northeast venue for summer graduating ceremony the last weekend in June to honor those who had overcome so much just for the chance to earn their high school equivalency diplomas.

“A lot of times, people think that adults who are returning to school dropped out because they didn’t care about school when they were kids, and that is just not true,” Lecester Johnson, Academy of Hope CEO, told WAMU Radio.

Academy of Hope is one of 10 adult charter schools in the District where students can earn their GED while learning life skills to navigate the speed bumps they hit along the road to finishing high school.

The school’s mission is to provide high-quality education to people in the community who have been marginalized and since 1985, more than 700 adults have obtained their high school diplomas and 7,000 more have improved their skills in reading, writing, math and computing.

The academy was founded by two teachers who believed that education could empower those most marginalized in D.C. At a time when one out of 10 adults in the city doesn’t have a high school diploma, the Academy of Hope is an oasis of opportunity for many.

The academy has sites in Ward 5 and Ward 8 but students come from all over the city. Ninety-six percent of its students come from households that classify as low income, and 24% identify themselves as having a disability.

According to school officials, 50 students graduated from the Academy of Hope this year, ranging in age from 27 to 43.

The average adult learner at the academy has a range of levels — from beginning literacy to college and the school covers reading, social studies, writing, math, science, technology and career awareness and preparation.

“Always remember it’s never too late. As long as you have faith in yourself and God, and believe success is growth, and growth is good for the soul,” said graduate Angel Harris, 40, whose speech came 25 years after she dropped out of school.

According to WAMU, Harris earned certification as a hospitality health care specialist and plans to continue her education at the University of the District of Columbia.

Academy of Hope offers two high school credentialing options: the General Education Development (GED) exam and the National External Diploma Program (NEDP). Students also have the opportunity to dual-enroll at UDC Community College.

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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