October 1, 2017
Achievement Academy Executive Director Nancy Cox, on the left, works through a critical reading exercise with students Antigonne Kelley and Anna Roman.

The career aspirations of Antigonne Kelley and Anna Roman are different – Kelley wants to get her truck driver certification, and Roman is interested in technology and computers – but the way they are pursuing these aspirations is the same.

Twenty-year-old Kelley and 27-year-old Roman are attending the Achievement Academy of Durham, a free, nonprofit school for students pursuing their GED. On a Tuesday afternoon, in the basement of New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Durham’s Crest Street neighborhood, they sat and completed a critical reading lesson together.

Nancy Cox, executive director of the Achievement Academy of Durham and a former Durham school board member, joined the students in reading through eyewitness accounts and government investigation summaries of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Cox, Kelley and Roman went over the “SQ3R” reading strategy – First, quickly Scan the reading and ask Questions upfront. Then Read carefully, Recite and Review.

“These strategies will help you extract as much meaning as you can from the reading,” Cox said. “Give your mind a puzzle or a question that your brain wants to answer.”

The Achievement Academy of Durham’s mission is to support young adults who did not finish school by reconnecting them to educational opportunities. Achievement Academy teaches students critical reading skills as well as helps them attain their N.C. High School Equivalency Diploma and complete college preparatory training.

The goal is to prepare students for postsecondary education and therefore help them achieve their career goals.

Achievement Academy of Durham received a $5,000 Community Care Fund grant from Doing Good in the Neighborhood in 2016. The Community Care Fund is a competitive grant-making program for diverse Triangle nonprofits. The funding was used to recruit students from Durham’s Crest Street neighborhood, which is down the road from Duke University Hospital, and from surrounding areas like Erwin Road apartment complexes. Funding was also used to purchase online assessment software that helps track students’ progress toward their GED.

The GED program takes about 15 months to complete. Students receive one-on-one tutoring from Achievement Academy staff in math, science, language arts and social studies, with sessions occurring Monday through Friday at the W.I. Patterson Recreation Center.

Roman, who used to attend Hillside High School in Durham, said she excelled academically in her high school classes but felt antisocial and like she didn’t fit in.

“I’ve been trying to get my GED since forever,” Roman said. “But I’ve never found a spot where I really felt comfortable.”

Kelley said she also felt like she didn’t fit in at Riverside High School. She started pursuing her GED through an online program but missed the personal instruction that comes with being in a classroom. She decided to try out Achievement Academy, and since then, she has not missed a day of tutoring.

“It’s like a warm welcome,” Kelley said about Achievement Academy. “You don’t feel out of place.”

Support organizations like Achievement Academy of Durham by making a gift to Doing Good in the Neighborhood, which supports the important work of local nonprofits, schools and neighborhoods.

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