Austin Can Academy proving dreams can come true

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by TERRI GRUCA / KVUE News and photojournalist J.P. HARRINGTON

Bio | Email | Follow: @TerriG_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on June 9, 2013 at 10:38 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 10 at 2:40 PM

AUSTIN -- Most students dream of graduation day, perhaps none more than the students at Austin Can Academy.

To fully understand why graduation is so special to them, you need to know how far most of these students have come.

"I wasn't going to class, had truancy problems," said senior Christian Turner.

"My daughter just turned four in April," said senior Chayanna Bell.

"I just kind of lost interest,” said John-Patrick Speedy. “I've always been a smart kid, just never really applied myself."

"One day I was coming home from football practice, and I noticed ambulances in my yard. They told me my grandmother had died. That's who I was living with, and so I had to bounce around to foster homes,” said senior Tevin Thompson.

From dropouts, to the expelled, even the forgotten, most of these students felt the same about school.

"I was scared, and I thought all hope was lost and it was too late," said Bell.

Then they found Austin Can Academy.

"A lot of their brothers and sisters are dropouts. They've been dropouts,” said teacher Ken Kidd. “We give them one, last chance."

"It kept me off the streets,” recalled Thompson. “It kept me from doing so much of the things I've seen other people do."

The Austin charter school is designed to help at-risk students who've struggled in a traditional high school setting. Class sizes are small, and they receive guidance to develop a plan for the future. Teenage mother Chayanna Bell dreams of becoming a nurse.

"I want to make sure in the future I can provide for her and be the best that I can for her," she said.

These students have not always made the best decisions. Some have overcome incredible odds, but they all have one thing in common -- they didn't give up.

"Graduation means everything to me," said Thompson.

That’s why their graduation ceremony was more than just pomp and circumstance. It's truly something to celebrate.

"Our graduations are unreal. Not only do they bring their parents, they bring their cousins and their neighbors. It is a festival," said Kidd.

Since 1987, 12,000 students have graduated from the 10 Texas Can Academies.

The 112 graduates this year are the latest success stories in Austin.

"Just to know what you had to go through to get there and finally get it done means the most to everybody," said Bell.

They are proof that dreams, when given the right attention and focus, can come true.

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