Opry Mills school celebrates graduation - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Opry Mills school celebrates graduation

Posted: Updated: May 29, 2014 10:26 PM
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

This time of year, a lot of families are celebrating graduations.

In Metro Schools, almost 25 percent of students don't graduate from high school.

A national program aimed at getting more students in cap and gowns is getting high marks, and they're not just getting students ready for the workforce.

"I thought the streets was going to get him. I thought the streets was going to get him," said Tasha Fleming, whose son Julius was one of about 40 classmates to graduate from the Academy at Opry Mills.

"I'm just excited. We didn't think he was going to come. He was too popular in school, but he wasn't getting his work done," said Tasha Fleming.

"I would wake up not wanting to go to school," said Julius Fleming. "I would be depressed I would not get here, not want to do the work. I didn't think I would graduate."

Simon Youth Academy, which partnered with Metro Nashville Public Schools in 2010, has 17 academies across the United States.

It has a rigorous academic curriculum geared for students like Julius Fleming.

"They come here because they haven't fit in anywhere else or because of illness," said Dr. Michael Durnil, President and CEO, Simon Youth Foundation. "Some of our students are homeless."

"We're graduating kids with real diplomas that are going on to college," said Dr. Jesse Register, Metro Schools director of schools. "Many of them would not have been able to do so if it had not been for this school and this program."

Diana Garcia, a mother herself, said she would have dropped out.

"Being here at the academy, I get to graduate and move on to going to college," said Garcia. "I'm studying to be a dental assistant and give my child a better life."

If you have been to Opry Mills, you have probably walked by the school and never noticed. It is located between Hanes Brand and TGI Friday's and has graduated nearly 200 students.

"Because they have a high school degree, they are going to be less likely to be caught up in the system and become dependent on services that you and I fund throughout tax dollars."

"I'm not a statistic," said Julius Fleming. "It feels good to know I'm going to be somebody."

The Simon Foundation awards $1 million in college scholarships each year.

Register said the price tag to educate these students is about half that per pupil at traditional high schools.

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