SYF Spotlight on North Coast Academy and a Student Success

Since
its inception in January 2001, Simon Youth North Coast Academy (NCA) at
Richmond Town Square Sears, Richmond Heights, OH, has helped hundreds of
students make a fresh start academically and begin preparing for college or a
career.
One
of those success stories is Aaron Thomas, who attended NCA in 2006. After
transferring from Cleveland Heights to Shaker Heights in his senior year, he
learned he was 12 credits short of graduation. He heard about NCA from some
friends, then asked his guidance counselor for more information.
Founded
by the Simon Youth Foundation and run by the Education Service Center of
Cuyahoga County, at-risk students from 13 districts earn their high school
diplomas through an alternate, half-day program of online curriculum and
tutoring at the school, which is housed above Sears at Richmond Town Square in
Richmond Heights. The teens take one or two classes at a time, but the
accelerated program often enables them to graduate with their own class and
prepare for college, the Armed Forces, or the job market. In addition, the
students learn social skills, financial literacy, writing structure, and
job-related skills.
“NCA
was a very independent atmosphere and the courses were tailored exactly to my
personal track,” Aaron said. “It worked for me because for the first
time ever, I felt in control of my life and graduation rate. This was a point
in my life where I became ambitious for the right reasons.”
Director
Rena Wertheim remembers when Aaron came to NCA, he was ready to change, and
ready to become a leader. “He was a student who had messed up in his first
year or two of high school, but he knew he wanted to fix it and move
forward,” she said.
He
became active in the school’s community service efforts and took part in
shadowing experiences in the field of architecture. In recognition of his
leadership on campus, he was awarded a Simon Youth Foundation Community Scholarship,
and went on to earn a bachelor of science in construction engineering
technology at the University of Toledo.
“I
got a second chance at going to college. I was able to use the discipline I
developed at NCA on my college campus. Through college I was able to start a
great career,” Aaron said.
After
graduation, Aaron landed a job as a field engineer for a national general
contractor. His current project is the renovation and upgrade of several
terminals at Los Angeles International Airport.
Aaron
visits NCA often to share his story and encourage students to take whatever
steps are needed so they can be accepted to college. He tells future NCA
students, “Anyone can do it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions even if it
seems impossible. I bet Mrs. Wertheim and the teachers got tired of my
questions but look where it got me. You can do it too.”
Congratulations
to Aaron. He is among the 10,000 SYF students who have graduated in the past 15
years. SYF also has awarded more than $10,000,000 in scholarships to deserving
students, such as Aaron.

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