Barnwell School District Celebrates Student Success with Ribbon Cutting Celebration

Barnwell, SC – April 25, 2023 – Members of Barnwell School District 45 (BSD45) and the community came together for a ribbon cutting celebration that took place at Barnwell High School to showcase the hands-on learning of the Star Academy program. BSD45 was a recipient of an Innovation Grant, a grant award designed to support innovation and career-focused learning.

Star Academy is a dynamic STEM-driven, hands-on program proven to advance and inspire students through its project-based and technology-driven curriculum. Through their courses within the program, students can work both independently and collaboratively to develop academic, leadership, and employability skills. Star Academy reinforces learning by tying lessons back to real-world scenarios and careers that students might experience outside of the classroom. Within BSD45, students at Guinyard-Butler Middle School and Barnwell High School have the opportunity to be a part of the Star Academy program.

When asked how this program aligns with the district’s initiatives and their goals for student success, Superintendent Crissie Stapleton shared, “One of our greatest goals with implementing the Star Academy at the middle level first was to focus on helping students make the critical transition from middle school to high school. Because the program utilizes a hands-on, project based learning approach, we have seen that it re-engages students and prepares students for future success in high school and beyond. We were so blessed to be able to implement the program at the high school, as well, so we could help students who may not have been able to benefit from the program when they were in the middle school.”

As part of the event, those in attendance had the opportunity to tour the Star Academy
classrooms and see the learning in action. Student ambassadors chosen to assist with the tours led guests through their classrooms and were able to share their firsthand experiences of the program.

“Sometimes students struggle early on with the Star Academy model because it is so different from what they’re used to in traditional classrooms. At Star Academy, each student is in his or her own driver’s seat and take ownership of their education and their growth as an individual – work ethic, accountability, collaboration, and more. Once they understand and embrace the model and begin to empower themselves with it, they’re headed off towards success – fast!” shared Denise James, Star Academy Director at Guinyard-Butler Middle School.

Yerger Middle School Celebrates Opening of Revolutionary“School-Within-A-School” for 8th Graders

New Orleans, LA, April 4, 2023 . . . Hope, Arkansas’ Yerger Middle School today celebrated the opening of a Star Academy “school-within-a-school” serving its entire 8th grade class to help boost academic success, attendance and social skills in preparation for the coming high school years.

“What makes Star Academy special is that it integrates science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into our core subjects,” said Yerger Middle School principal, Mike Radebaugh. “In the classrooms, when they study these subjects, they are able to relate them to careers that they integrate into their core classes.”

Star Academy takes a non-traditional approach to learning that has proven so successful, it has spread to 14 states and served over 20,000 students since its inception. Instead of the typical blackboard-and-lecture style of learning, Star Academy takes a project-based, STEM-driven approach to the core curriculum. Students experience hands-on projects that present knowledge in a form that captures their attention.

“What is different about these classrooms is that the students are leading the learning – there are many situations where the instruction of the educator drives everything we do in teaching and learning, and we lose the engagement of the kids, said Dr. Jonathan Crossley, Superintendent. “Over the course of the last few years, we have invested in different areas of our district which we have been very, very positive. There are world class students, there are world class practices taking place, and there are world class educators in this school.”

Star Academy also exposes students to potential careers, and ties what they are learning into these career tracks. For this reason, it has caught the attention of state and municipal authorities pushing for workforce readiness.

John Alvendia, CEO of NOLA Education (of Star Academy), had this to say about the ribbon-cutting: “It’s been an honor and privilege to work with Hope Public Schools and the staff at

Yerger Middle School to implement the Star Academy program. We are excited to play a small part in their strategic plan and are excited to watch students learn and grow through an innovative STEM approach in core academic.”

Osceola Star Academy Grant & Ribbon Cutting

Today, the Osceola School District celebrated receiving a one million dollar grant to offer the STAR Academy Curriculum over the next three years in the Choices Learning Center Academy.

Today the students, school district, and community leaders celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Principal Smith of Choices Learning Center shared, “Today, we are celebrating raising the bar for educational innovation. Most middle and high school students are interested in a non-traditional classroom setting that teaches them how to apply Math, Science, and Social studies in their everyday lives. “

During the 2022-2023 school year, Choices Learning Center rolled out the STAR Academy curriculum and now believes this curriculum has not only inspired students to learn but has built the skills needed in the workforce. 

“We want students to have the opportunity to select their High school based upon how they want to learn”, says Principal Smith.

The Osceola School District has received a one million dollar grant to offer the STAR Academy Curriculum over the next three years. 

During the ceremony, Dr. Toriano Green, Superintendent of Osceola School District shared “We are thrilled to introduce our most recent collaboration with STAR Academy, which will make us one of the first school districts to roll out this curriculum.”  Osceola’s School District was one of the nine districts selected by Workforce Development to receive this grant.  This grant will allow Choices Learning Center to receive all the instruction, resources, and ongoing support required to incorporate this model into their educational system. 

“Some students need a different approach, and we think that we have an opportunity with Star Academy in the Osceola School District to offer a different way of teaching and learning,” explained Dr. Green. “Star Academy allows our students to thrive in an environment that focuses on a hands-on approach and allows for more one-to-one teacher interactions.”

The instructional program Star Academy is based in New Orleans, Louisiana, to assist teachers in addressing the following goals:1. Lowering the rate of student dropouts 2. Recognizing & Meeting the Needs of Students Who Are At Risk 3. Integrating personal accountability into formal education using science, math, English language arts, and social studies as the main subjects covered in the curriculum.  Students will also be exposed to career pathways that pique their interest and inspire hope for the future.

The CLE teaching administration is applauded for this achievement by the Osceola School District, which is proud of all of their accomplishments. We are confident that this grant will aid Osceola in developing both as a town and as a district.

Written By: Brittany Hall, OSD PR & Communications

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Release Date: April 4, 2023 at 2:42pm

NOLA Education Adds Pioneering iLearn Math to Star Academy Academic Intervention Program

Acquisition of Proven Prescriptive Math Program Further Strengthens Premier Solution for Serving At-Risk Students

NOLA Education announced the purchase of iLearn Math from iLearn, Inc., a pioneer in prescriptive math education with a 20-year history of success.

“We are thrilled to add this state-of-the-art, computer-based math program to our curriculum,” said John Alvendia, CEO of New Orleans-based NOLA Education. “iLearn Math will add important features to our math offering that will further advance our ability to help kids who are struggling or falling behind catch up to their peers.”

Founded and directed by leading educators and psychologists, iLearn has developed a sophisticated program for identifying gaps and weaknesses in a student’s math skills, then addressing them systematically through computer-based learning. The program includes a color-bar chart that clearly tracks individual progress as students methodically close learning gaps and advance in their abilities.

Importantly, iLearn Math incorporates math skills from K – 12, since some middle-school students might lack skills typically learned years earlier. “You have to go back and make sure those foundational skills are in place before moving forward,” said Alvendia. “One of the unique things about iLearn Math is that these early-year math lessons are built-in, along with the capability to identify whether a student needs to master them before moving on. It’s a complete solution.”

Bob Collins, Founder of iLearn, added that iLearn Math fills an important gap between group learning and labor-intensive individualized instruction. “Some kids need more attention than even small-group (Tier 2) learning can offer, but teachers just don’t have the time to work one-on-one with every student struggling in math. iLearn Math is highly individualized without requiring a lot of involvement on the part of the teacher.”

He went on to praise the program’s Response to Intervention (RTI), ensuring that skill assessment and prescriptive learning happens minute-by-minute rather than requiring weeks of monitoring.

“There is an AI aspect to iLearn Math that puts it at the forefront of math teaching technology,” said Alvendia. “It fully exploits the power of software to learn exactly what each kids needs and how to address the need, so they can forge ahead on without a lot of supervision.”

Underlying iLearn Math’s design are 20 years of intensive research into the most effective methods of teaching math. “Part of what we’re purchasing with this solution is the expertise embodied in the way lessons are delivered, refined over many years by very experienced instructors and psychologists,” said Virginia Robinson, Chief Education Officer at NOLA Education.

iLearn Math will take its place beside NOLA Education’s other Star Academy math offerings. “This won’t replace but will complement the strong program we already have in place,” Alvendia concluded. “We’ll continue to emphasize hands-on, project-based, STEM-inspired learning as the heart of our Star Academy program.”

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Written By: Guy Lyman, Communication Manager

Release Date: January 20, 2023

Gov. Edwards Tours Non-Traditional Classes

Amite middle schoolers are improving their grades with a nontraditional learning style this year.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, center, cuts the ribbon on Star Academy at Amite Westside Middle Magnet School on Wednesday. Joining him are student ambassadors of the Program, Amite West Principal Reagan English, Greenville Park Leadership Academy Principal Bobby Matthews, Amite Mayor Walter Daniels, Superintendent Melissa Stilley, and School Board President Janice Fultz Richards.
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Star Academy, a program which uses a curriculum of project-based hands-on teamwork, functions almost as another school within Amite Westside Middle Magnet School. The program’s goal is to bolster the academic careers of kids most at risk of dropping out.

Gov. John Bel Edwards joined state, parish and town officials Wednesday morning to visit his junior high alma mater for a tour of the Star Academy classrooms he funded last year with $1 million in COVID relief.

When the funds came up for the educational use of his choice, Edwards picked Star Academy and funded it for six schools in Louisiana, two of them in Tangipahoa Parish.

Also using the program this year is Greenville Park Leadership Academy in Hammond. Another nearby is St. Helena College & Career Academy in Greensburg.

“It has been proven effective all over the country. It works in a unique way to make sure kids have every opportunity for success,” Edwards said. “You take kids who may be on a path that’s not very bright and you put them firmly on a path where they’re going to be successful in high school.”

Star Academy has programs in 15 states, about half of those in the southeastern U.S.

“If you get to be two years older than the other kids in your classroom by the time you get to ninth grade, you are the most likely to drop out of school,” Edwards said.

Star Academy students who are behind a grade level can potentially complete two grades in one school year since the curriculum lets kids work at their own pace.

“They’re going to do a lot of hard work, but it’s going to be more suited for them and it’s going to be fun and they’re going to learn an awful lot,” Edwards said. “It’s sort of a school within a school approach. For kids who may not be that suited for traditional education, they have something that’s a little nontraditional.”

Reaching more of the parish

Among those nontraditional traits, Star Academy classrooms feature flexible seating, with students often sitting in pairs at large work desks outfitted with kinetic materials, rather than in uniform rows facing the front of the room.

Those layout choices are not random; they’re part of the methodology.

“It’s proven to be effective in other places with students like ours,” Tangipahoa Superintendent Melissa Stilley said. “From the color of the paint on the wall to the tables, everything is very planned, and you’re just replicating that.”

School administration works together with specialists from NOLA Education, the New Orleans company which created Star Academy, to implement the program. The school system advertised last year for teachers who they would hire specifically to teach the new program and offered them a stipend.

While the governor’s office chose Tangipahoa for the program, Tangipahoa Parish School System had the choice of which schools would receive the “Star” treatment.

However, Stilley’s goal is for the entire parish to benefit starting next year. In much the same way as students travel between schools for magnet programs, Stilley hopes to open qualification for Amite’s and Hammond’s Star Academy classes to other parish schools.

“This is our first year, but next year we can actually open up slots,” she said. “Other schools across our parish will have the opportunity to come here for the Star program.”

Edwards said he hopes to see the program replicated across the state but is glad that Tangipahoa Parish was among those who have already committed.

After noting his visit was being seven years to the day since his inauguration as governor, he recalled meeting his wife at Amite Westside in the ’70s.

“I happened to be a seventh grade student here one day, and I looked up and there was Donna Hutto,” he said. “So I am especially thankful for this school. The biggest blessing in my life actually came from right here, and I have a lot of really special memories here.”

“This is a great way to kick off 2023, and it’s a great way to kick off my last year as governor,” he added. “My commitment to you is we’re going to work hard every single day between now and then, and then about a year from now Donna and I will be right back here in this community every single day.”

Stars in action

Leading guests on an open house tour of the Star Academy classrooms were student ambassadors of the program. They were joined by NOLA education support specialist Shannon Charles.

“Everybody goes at their own pace,” Star Academy language arts teacher Amber Morris told her visitors.

She showed guests an assignment requiring students to form text sentences while designing a character on their computers. They receive verbal instructions through earbuds.

“It helps me get a better understanding,” said Sabrina Roe, one of the student ambassadors.

Star Academy’s methodology was new to Morris, who came into her Amite Westside job over the summer, but she said it also benefits her teaching style.

“I love learning new things. It’s taken me a step further in life,” Morris said.

She teaches four sections, the smallest of which includes 10 students, the largest, 14 or 15.

“It gives you a chance to actually learn and work at your own pace,” student ambassador Alonzo Bourgeois said of Jyothi Sathyanarayana’s math classes.

“It really connects them with real-life applications,” Sathyanarayana said.

Dedriana Perry’s science classroom layout is divided by different types of science: body systems, genetics, energy and weather. Two students donning goggles and lab coats, Brennan Coleman and Colby Smith, worked on a chemical reactions project.

“I love it, compared to the traditional setup,” Perry said. “The kids work together more; they ask more questions. They feel like little scientists when they put those goggles on.”

School Board Member Joey Piazza II asked Charles how specialists help eighth graders aging out of the program adapt to a more traditional ninth grade.

“We’re continuing to build out into ninth grade,” Charles said. “It’s definitely something we have to think about, because our kids love the program. We really try to develop just a love of learning and lay the foundation.”

NOLA has also opened its first elementary Star Academy program in Mobile County, Alabama.

After the tour, Stilley said she was impressed with the results she saw of the program’s first six months and also praised the work of the faculty who have taken it on.

“The program’s only as good as the teachers teaching the program,” she said. “We’re here to support them and give them what they need.”

She noted that the methods of Star Academy could appeal even to students who aren’t at-risk and that the program could have an influence on other classes.

“Other teachers are paying attention to how they’re doing things. It’s a ripple effect,” Stilley said.

Jonathan Rhodes, a computer literacy teacher at Amite Westside who isn’t part of the Star Academy program, confirmed that he has noticed academic improvement among the program’s students, including some who struggled in his social studies class last year.

“This is helping them get up to speed. This catches them up,” Rhodes said. “Some of them come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I got an A in this, I got an A in social studies. I’m doing much better than what I did last year.’”

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Written By: Connor Raborn, Editor, The Daily Star

Release Date: January 11, 2023

Tangipahoa Parish School System hosts Governor John Bel Edwards and community for Star Academy Ribbon Cutting Celebration

Tangipahoa Parish School System and NOLA Education proudly hosted community members as well as local and state dignitaries, with special guests Governor John Bel Edwards at a ribbon-cutting event held at Amite Westside Middle Magnet School. The event was held to celebrate one of the district’s newest educational offerings, Star Academy, offered at both Amite Westside Middle Magnet School in Amite and Greenville Park Leadership Academy in Hammond. 

Star Academy is a dynamic STEM-driven, hands-on learning program proven to advance and inspire students in a non-traditional learning environment. The program utilizes project-based learning and technology-driven curriculum. Through their core curriculum courses, students work independently and collaboratively to develop leadership and employability skills. While enrolled in the Star Academy program, students are exposed to over 100 careers and build vital skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving. 

As part of the event, guests had the opportunity to partake in student-led tours of the Star Academy classrooms, as well as hear remarks from Mrs. Melissa Stilley, Superintendent of Tangipahoa Parish Schools, and Governor John Bel Edwards. Emphasizing the importance that Star Academy and other learning initiatives have on education, Governor Edwards said, “I’m very excited for the students who are taking part in this program and about the way in which it helps to keep them engaged in school and understand in a very real way the value of continuing their education. The STEM-focused curriculum and instruction incorporates hands-on learning, individualized instruction, collaborative learning, team-based instruction, and real world connections. It all helps the students to see that they can be successful in school and ultimately in life.”   

At Amite Westside, 60 students in the seventh and eighth grades are enrolled in the program, overseen by Mrs. Reagan English (Principal) and taught by Academy teachers: Dedriana Perry (Science), Greg Millirons (Social Studies), Jyothi Sathyanarayana (Math), and Amber Morris (English Language Arts). The Star Academy program at Greenville Park is led by Mr. Bobby Matthews (Principal) and Academy Teachers include John Griffitt (Social Studies), Kayla Wilson (Math), and Mercy Govada (Science), and Kelly Perkins (English Language Arts). The program currently serves 56 students in seventh and eighth grade. 

“We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to have two Star Academy programs in our district. In reflecting on how this program is going to help our students – one of the goals the district has is to have students graduate postsecondary and career ready. Star Academy will help to achieve this goal as it incorporates career exploration, and helps students set goals and see future opportunities,” said Dr. Lisa Fussell, Assistant Superintendent of Tangipahoa Parish Schools.

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STAR Academy making a difference at Magnolia Middle School

Magnolia Middle School eighth grader Mariah Young used to struggle with her classes and her grades.

“I don’t know, the teachers didn’t really explain it really well and the work was really hard for me,” Mariah said of her previous experiences with school.

The official ribbon cutting at Magnolia Middle School’s STAR Academy.

But beginning this year, that has changed for Mariah and 75 other students who are members of the school’s STAR Academy. STAR Academy is a dynamic hands-on, STEM-based program proven to advance and inspire students who will thrive in a non-traditional learning environment, according to materials from

“I like the STAR Academy because it’s fun, you get to do experiments,” Mariah said. “My grades are better—this year my grades are on top. I like the work.”

In November, several representatives of the NOLAEducation, LLC., which coordinates the Star Academy, along with Magnolia School District faculty and staff and community members were in Magnolia for a ribbon cutting at Magnolia Middle School. The ceremony was to celebrate the programs first year of being on campus.

Magnolia Middle School Assistant Principal Crissy Klober spearheaded the effort on campus of working with NOLAEducation, LLC., to bring STAR Academy to the campus. She said there were originally 80 students enrolled in the program at the beginning of the year, but due to some scheduling conflicts with extra-curricular activities, four students were unable to stay with the program.

Klober describes STAR Academy as a platform for students to learn with hands on activities in modules. She said there are 10 modules to complete as well as some other hands-on activities in the classroom.

“The modules also allow the students to see what career paths are available with the subject matter tied to the modules,” Klober said. “These students are students who excel with hands-on activities versus a more traditional classroom setting.”

Klober said the district and middle school teachers are excited to see the growth these students experience in this setting.

“We look forward to a successful year with the program. As for the future we plan to add seventh grade to the program next year so that students experience two years of hands-on activities,” she said. “Students receive math, history, English, and science through STAR Academy and participate in their chosen electives such as sports, choir, band, agriculture, art, physical education.”

Robin Mussa, vice president of NOLAEducation, LLC., said other cities with schools which already have STAR Academies in Arkansas include Pine Bluff, Blytheville, Strong and Osceola. Camden Fairview is set to have a STAR Academy at its middle school next year, Mussa said.

Magnolia School District Superintendent John Ward told those in attendance for the STAR Academy Ribbon Cutting that he thought it was a great program for the middle school and was happy it was helping students learn in a new way.

“It was not a coincidence at all that I crossed paths with (Robin Mussa) last February,” at a conference. “This is an opportunity for education in a different setting.”

Ward praised Klober for her determination to see to it that STAR Academy became a reality on the middle school campus. She said Klober had to do some creative scheduling and many meetings with Mussa to make sure the program was implemented, and everything was in place.

“We challenged Ms. Klober to do this, and she has done an amazing job,” Ward said at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

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Written By: Becky Bell, Reporter, Magnolia Reporter

Release Date: December 15, 2022

Strong-Huttig School District provides Star Academy learning program to students

STRONG, Ark. (KTVE/KARD)–On Tuesday, December 13, Strong High School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome the district’s Star Academy Program.

According to Star Academy’s website, the star academy program is a comprehensive program that immerses students in core courses through a hands-on, project-based curriculum that re-engages them towards academic success.

“Our students are working independently as well as collaboratively with each other. The teachers act as a facilitator and the classroom is a student-centered classroom so it’s really good for our students who learn best by doing hands-on activities,” explained K-12 Principal Rhonda Perry.

El Dorado-Union County Chamber, Star Academy and school officials all joined for the celebration which included an in-depth look inside two classrooms currently learning under the program.

8th-grade student ambassador Dexton Howard explains, “It’s hands-on and it’s something that we really needed because we were getting behind.”

Yvanna Barnes is a 7th-grade student who transferred to the Strong-Huttig School District this year. She explains how the program has improved her core learning skills since moving to the district.

“At my old school, I was really failing in math. When I came here Star Academy showed me how to do it so I got a better grasp. I went from having a D or F in math to having a B or high C,” said Barnes.

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Written By: Scarlett Gully

Released: Dec 13, 2022 – 6:40PM CT

Two years of schooling in one: This Jefferson Parish program hopes to get students back on track

‘It’s definitely untraditional. But the traditional way has not worked for these kids.’

STAR Academy students Lawvonta Francois and Dante Foster work on an interactive board during class at Marrero Middle School on Wednesday, November 9, 2022. (Photo by Brett Duke, | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Javier Cortez had almost given up on his education. Having been held back twice, the 14-year-old felt like he’d never catch up with his peers.

But his outlook changed when he learned he’d been admitted to Jefferson Parish’s Star Academy.

Located at Marrero Middle on the west bank, and T.H. Harris Middle on the east bank, the “school within a school” features an accelerated, project-based curriculum, allowing students like Cortez to complete two years of schooling in one.

New to the Jefferson Parish school district, the program is geared toward 7th graders who were once on-track academically, but have fallen behind due to some personal adversity, like a death in the family. The program admitted 160 students this school year, split between the two campuses. 

A product of the LaPlace-based nonprofit NOLA Education, the program seeks to lower high-school dropout rates by intervening in middle school.

STAR Academy students Lawvonta Francois and Dante Foster work on an interactive board during class at Marrero Middle School on Wednesday, November 9, 2022. (Photo by Brett Duke, | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

School district data show that 80% of students who have dropped out of Jefferson Parish public schools since 2016 were two or more years behind, said Alisha Gilbert, the district liaison for the program.

“Historically, the more students we have that are overage is directly correlated to our high school dropout rate,” Gilbert said.

‘It’s definitely untraditional’

The program covers 7th and 8th grade coursework, preparing students to go straight to high school upon graduation. Class sizes are capped at 20 students, fewer than the 33 in a traditional classroom.

Much of the curriculum is taught through a computer-based platform with videos and texts that can be read aloud.

But it’s not just screen time. Many lessons center around hands-on projects.

Peering over a microscope in his science class at Marrero Middle, Cortez conferred with his partner to answer questions on a worksheet, following along with a computer lesson on plants and pollination.

At a station nearby, a pair of students plugged wires into an oscilloscope, while another poured chemicals into test tubes. 

Marrero Middle principal Christina Conforto described the coursework as “a lot less ‘sit and get’ and a lot more ‘hands-on’.”

Circling the classroom, teacher La’Tonya Osborne checked on students’ progress, answering questions. Under the Star Academy model, teachers serve as “facilitators,” allowing students to engage in “productive struggle,” Gilbert said.

“It’s definitely untraditional,” Gilbert said. “But the traditional way has not worked for these kids.”

‘Social-emotional learning’

Braided into the curriculum is what Gilbert calls “social-emotional learning.” That includes teaching students how to respectfully disagree with one another, work together and appropriately argue a response.

When picking teachers for the program, Gilbert said they sought candidates with empathy.

In his social studies classroom, at the top of the white board, teacher Ralph Kidd wrote: “Be Brave! Believe in Yourself.”

“At the core, they’re really good kids, and they have a lot of potential,” he said, adding that many have faced “traumas” beyond their years.

Michele O’Steen, assistant principal at Marrero Middle, said students that are held back often “shut down” behaviorally, knowing that they’re behind and can’t catch up.

STAR Academy teacher Tyeisha Perique gives instructions during an ELA class at Marrero Middle School on Wednesday, November 9, 2022. (Photo by Brett Duke, | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

But grouped together at the Star Academy, many of those students for the first time “don’t feel ostracized” for being older, Gilbert said.

Khamari Bellamy, 15, spent much of last year getting in trouble. Now, he’s close to making the Honor Roll. 

“Just ask my mom, I talk about school everyday,” he said. 

Aderrian Badon, 14, credited the computer program for helping him to slow down and process the material 

“Last year, I was rushing through the year,” Badon said. “Now, I don’t want it to be over.”

Working towards high school

Earlier this year, the students took a field trip to John Ehret High, to get a sense of what they’re working towards. College visits are also in the works.

“We constantly tell them, ‘you’re going to high school next year,’” Conforto said.

Jefferson Parish already sends students who fail 8th grade to high school as “transitional” students. 

But of the 800 students advanced under that program in 2017-2018 school year, only 49% graduated in four years, Gilbert said. 

“We’re taking care of half the problem. But what about the other half?” she asked. The answer, she hopes, is the Star Academy. 

The program is funded for at least the next three years, thanks to a combination of federal pandemic aid and a $720,000 grant from the state Department of Education.

For students like Cortez, the program has been a godsend. 

“It’s been a really good year so far,” he said. “Now that I’m here, I feel I’m able to focus much better.”

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Written By: Blake Paterson, Staff Writer,

Released: Nov 27, 2022 – 10:26AM