Pinellas MYcroSchool, a tuition-free public charter high school, blends online and classroom learning to help you graduate and achieve your goals! They serve students 16-21 years old, grades 9-12
BY CINDY SWISHER, Neighborhood News Bureau
ST. PETERSBURG – One out of seven 16-24-year olds in the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area are not working or in school.
MYcroSchool is a tuition-free, public charter high school that exists to change those numbers by re-engaging recent dropouts, as well as at-risk students still in high school.
Kelvin Neal was one of those students.
Neal enrolled in MYcroSchool a little over three years ago when counselors at Boca Ciega High School informed him he was too far behind in credits to graduate on time. He chose MYcroSchool because of the setting.
“You have a lot of kids that can’t deal with 30, 40 kids in class at the same time,” Neal said. “That was my problem. Here you can work at your own pace.”
The students that have already dropped out, MYcroSchool offers them a second chance to earn a diploma.
While the average age of the students is 19, anyone between the ages of 16 and 22 can enroll.
Because of its diverse student population, MYcroSchool has developed a flexible, at-your-own-pace schedule. Students can choose between two school days from 7:30-12:30 p.m. or 11:17- 4:17 p.m.
“This accommodates the many students who work fulltime,” said Faune Walker, administrative services and Title I coordinator at the school. “They don’t work because they want money for a car or clothes, they work because they are supporting themselves and their families,” she said.
MYcroSchool does more than offer a chance to finish high school, for many students, it is the catalyst that changes their lives.
When Neal came to MYcroSchool, he was facing some legal issues. “I was in and out of the streets, not focusing on any goals,” he said.
Shortly after enrolling, he decided to make some significant changes.
“I figured out I needed to leave the streets alone,” he said. “Leave the riff-raff alone, all the friends, leave it all alone.”
Neal credits Principal Steven Humphries and Christopher Wolf, Exceptional Student Education teacher, with keeping him out of trouble and showing him something different.
“They became the real pushers for me to do good,” he said.
Humphries has been principal at MYcroSchool for three years. He believes it can be a fresh start for kids who are forgotten by the public school system.
“Whatever happened the day before, I don’t judge you,” Humphries tells students. “Every day is brand new; you walk through the door, that’s a step.”
The biggest reason students can make such major life changes is because of the family-like atmosphere the staff creates.
“One thing we pride ourselves on is that the kids come in here one way, and because we treat them like our own and create a safe environment, they leave more confident, more mature,” said Humphries.
Wolf is proud of the way the staff approaches each student. “We treat each one differently because they each come from such different backgrounds and experiences,” he said.
As well as being able to work at their own pace, every student has an individualized learning plan tailored to meet their specific needs.
Since 80 percent of MYcroSchool students have experienced some form of trauma—such as physical abuse, homelessness and even witnessing family members gunned down—much of what the staff does involves gaining their trust and rebuilding their self-esteem.
“They have been hurt so much they are always in survival mode,” said Wolf. “We make this building a safe haven for them and try to show them education is a way out.”
That approach seems to be working. This year’s graduation rate double last year’s. Despite a shaky start, Neal was among those graduates.
According to Wolf, Neal has gotten over some very challenging hurdles and made some major life changes. “He took that turn; he’s on the right path,” he said.
Neal agrees. During his time at MYcroSchool, something finally clicked. He told himself, “You need to get your mind right, stay focused, stay in school and get your diploma.”
And the effort paid off. Neal was one of three MYcroSchool who received full scholarships to Pinellas Technical College. He will be studying heating and air conditioning in the fall and is looking forward to doing something he enjoys that also provides financial stability.
Cindy Swisher is a student reporter in the Neighborhood News Bureau of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Visit www.nnbnews.com for more info.