The school year is coming to an end and at Bellevue’s Eastside Academy a group of eleven teenagers is preparing to graduate. But these kids are not like most graduating Seniors in America. When they don their cap and gown in a few weeks it will be an accomplishment far greater than that of the majority of their peers, for these students are part of a relatively new school, founded just nine years ago, that reaches out to teens that have been rejected by nearly everyone else, including, in some cases, themselves. Before coming to Eastside Academy most of these kids had problems with drugs, alcohol and the law. They’d already been expelled from the public school district and some hadn’t attended class in years. But through the great attention paid to them by Executive Director Toni Esparza and her staff at Eastside Academy these bright young minds, once destined for a prison cell or even a life cut short, now have a new chance at life and that renewed sense we all shared in our early years, that anything is possible. Amongst the graduating class at Eastside Academy this year are future attorneys, airline pilots, teachers and doctors.
One such student, Lyric Hammond, will also be honored next week by the Rotary Club of Seattle Skyline with a $500 scholarship toward her higher education expenses. She was chosen for this award in part because of the moving essay that she submitted in which she writes of her journey from drug addict to aspiring neurosurgeon.
Several more inspiring stories of success from Eastside Academy students are here.
Eastside Academy has helped its students achieve amazing results; students who the government had already given up on. It achieved these results in no small part because of its whole person approach to education. It holds classes at First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue and, while not a religious school –anyone can attend Eastside Academy regardless of his faith or lack of it– the school does bring in an outside speaker on a regular basis to talk about issues of faith, civility or other topics that would almost certainly be shunned in our public schools. This approach, along with programs like the Student of the Month, which honors student by inviting them to lunch at the Rotary Club of Seattle Skyline, and giving them an award, has inspired these great kids to reach for goals that just a few years ago they would never have even dreamed.
Eastside Academy is proof that, to achieve the dreams we all hold of great success for even the least among us, we don’t need to continue sending more and more money to Washington, D.C. or Olympia for education programs that have continued to fail us. Americans are the most generous people on Earth and also posses an incredible drive, ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Eastside Academy’s annual budget is modest, raised by donations from the private sector; and their bureaucracy is small. This wonderful school has the flexibility and ingenuity to bring about the change that so many politicians speak but seldom deliver. Why not give the private sector a chance? We’ll be pleased with the results.