RISE Academy + Hard Work = Graduation

by Priscella Rodriguez

RISE Academy is the latest expansion to Epic Charter Schools. It is a program for high school students who are at the risk of not graduating. 

It helps these students by helping them get the credit they need.

The students who are eligible for RISE are students who were already supposed to have graduated. It does not matter how far behind a student is. Students must be six or more credits behind to be eligible for RISE.

Students are eligible as long as they haven’t turned 21 before school starts. Students who turn 21 during the school year will be able to finish the year in RISE. On average, most students are 17 to 18 years old.

The academy limits enrollment to 400 students. New students are admitted as soon as current students graduate. This typically happens monthly. Students are admitted to one of three tracks — those who intend to go to college, those who intend to work, and those who want to enlist in the military. 

To enter RISE Academy, both Epic and non-Epic students must let their teachers know of their interest. RISE will then check eligibility and the number of credits they’re behind. RISE then interviews interested students in order to understand individual situations and obstacles. 

As for classwork and structure, RISE is very fast-paced. Students cover a semester of content in four weeks. Classes meet Monday through Thursday, and students also meet with their teachers. Classes are offered throughout the day and evening. Students earn one-half of a credit for each four-week block they complete. 

RISE administrators acknowledge the academic rigor of the program but say they see a snowball effect with students. Students often start small and then proceed rapidly. 

RISE has one goal: graduation. 

“From the very beginning I choose to come in to RISE. I choose to go to these classes that meet the times that I can go. I choose to finish those classes. I choose to keep going to that next class. And I choose to accept that help. And then, at the end of the day, I choose to now graduate, I choose to move forward into my next phase of life, whatever that thing may be, and I choose all of that for me. That’s what I would hope to see from all of our graduates,” said Jeff Alyias, who oversees the academy. 

RISE plans to add a summer option for students. As for what they plan to do next year,  “I wanna think about, ‘How do I better serve the students that we have here?’” Alyias said.

Although RISE is less than a year old, it’s already showing results in growing enrollment and graduations. 

“At the end of the day, whether we’re serving 300 students currently or a thousand students in the future, what matters is not necessarily the number of students, but what we do with those students that are in our charge,” Alyias said.

RISE would also like to give a message to students.

“Any of those students who just think that they’re on their last leg, or they’re thinking about dropping out, I would say before you do that, before you consider that, before you think about going the path of a GED, give us a look and be willing to put trust in us because we can help you,” Alyias said. 

Cover Photo by Abby Conn.

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