HERO CENTRAL: Academy of Hope Offers A Chance To Finish School

10:28 PM, Aug 27, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) --- The average person without a high school diploma earns $451 a week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Adults in the District who want to earn their GED or prepare for college have a place to turn. 

Academy of Hope  is a non-profit adult learning center serving about 800 students. Students pay $30 dollars a semester, or volunteer in exchange for enrollment.

"I was working two jobs, 60 hours a week. Yet I still didn't make enough to support four children." 

Darnetta Hollis, 29,  needs a higher paying job, but she needs to finish school first.  Hollis left school in the 11th grade when she became pregnant. But now she is able to return to classes at Academy of Hope.

"You don't want to be a hypocrite to your children. If you're telling them to finish school and go to college, you need to do the same," Hollis said.

Since 2008 Hollis has been coming to the adult learning center, part-time. She wants to concentrate on Hospitality Management at CCDC.  Her long-term goal: to earn a Master's degree within the next six years. The Academy of Hope gives her the confidence to achieve. 

"Coming in with a complex of not finishing school, knowing why you didn't, but just not knowing how people would receive you. I don't have to worry about that here. I could be having a bad day but by the time I walk through the door, I'm greeted by the receptionist and it all fades away."

Lecester Johnson, the executive director says Academy of Hope is often the first time many students get a chance at a quality education.

"DC is ranked sadly, number three in some of the lowest literacy rates in the country. We really are two cities, a city of very well educated people, and a city where we have a lot of people who are struggling with basic literacy skills," said Lecester Johnson, Executive Director of Academy of Hope.

The Academy of Hope connected Hollis with child care and social services. So she has more time to concentrate on her studies. She hopes to earn her high school diploma at the end of this month.

"If all goes well, I'll be issued my diploma which is exciting," she smiles.

Written/Produced by: Elizabeth Jia

NOTE: Gannett Foundation has given a donation to Academy of Hope.

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