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college readiness

The American Academy: Our Beginnings

  • Rob Noroian
  • September 21, 2018

Graduation Alliance started and thrives with the passion for having students reach their full potential.

It all started with a simple premise: Give individuals who could not or would not return to high school the opportunity to take classes online, supported by expert teachers, professional tutors and academic coaches. The American Academy, one of the nation’s first fully accredited comprehensive online high schools, was born. “We learned quickly there was a great demand for our classes,” said the school’s co-founder, Rebekah Richards, “but right away we also saw that there were a lot of people who wanted to be able to access education like this and couldn’t, even at the relatively low course fees we charged for our classes.”

Richards went to work looking for alternative ways to make her school’s educational opportunities available for more students. Soon, the school was working with school districts in Washington state and Michigan. One of the key needs Richards recognized was for districts to have a way to re-engage students who had left school before graduation. Even with the flexibility that online classes offered, though, these students often had socio-economic needs that made any sort of return to school a challenge. “That’s really what precipitated the transformation to Graduation Alliance,” she said. “A school by itself wasn’t enough. We needed to offer recruitment, reengagement on-ramping, socio-economic support, wireless access and technology, and college and career planning.”

Today Graduation Alliance offers all of those things and more in a diverse range of programs across the nation. Meanwhile, The American Academy has continued its mission of offering online courses to students who want to return to school, take courses to catch up, or complete classes to get ahead. “It’s amazing to look back at where this all started,” Richards said. “And the best part is that our values absolutely haven’t changed. In everything we do, we put students first. We always have and we always will.”