By Mike Beas
Quite literally, Sam Clemens is in a class by himself.
Clemens graduated from the new Simon Youth Academy in Avon on Sept. 15, breaking the seal as the school’s first person to explore a new avenue in terms of accruing the credits necessary to graduate.
The Avon Academy opened in July.
It is located on the first floor and basement of the Avon High School Administration Building.
“I went to Avon High School my freshman year through my junior year, and then went to Avon Academy my senior year,” said Clemens, 18. “My girlfriend and I are having a baby, so they gave me the opportunity to graduate early.”
According to Kellie Rodkey, coordinator of Avon Academy, its purpose is to remove barriers for students who have not been successful in a traditional high school setting.
This includes those who fall into one of three categories: 1) students who are credits deficient; 2) young mothers or fathers (the academy has an on-site daycare), and 3) those students who, for whatever reason, haven’t been successful in a traditional high school environment.
Clemens primarily falls into the latter category, as he and his girlfriend, Trinity, were expecting their daughter to be born on Oct. 16.
“I loved being there,” said Clemens, who is currently working two jobs and aspires to eventually be employed as a lineman for a power company, of Avon Academy. “The teachers were great, and all of the students were really nice. Just a very welcoming environment. It was good for me so that I wouldn’t have to balance work, school and a baby.
“This way, I just have to concern myself with work and the baby.”
Avon Academy’s mission is to inspire students with school and community-based partnerships and consistent adult relationships, engage learners with direct instruction and individual service learning plans, and empower citizens to graduate on time and take ownership of their future.
“Instead of semesters, we offer four quarters, and each of those quarters is a nine-week semester, basically,” said Rodkey. “Students master the state standard, and then move onto the next standard. It’s very individual-based.”
Avon Academy, presently comprised of 85 students from grades 10-12, is designed to help them graduate on time. Beyond that, it works to build a bridge for student in terms of finding employment after high school.
The Academy’s official ribbon cutting took place on July 25.
Joining Rodkey for the ceremony were Avon Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Wyndham, President of the Avon Board of School Trustees Anne Engelhardt, CEO/President of Simon Youth Academy Andrea Neely, several Avon Academy students, and Rev. Danielle Cox of Avon Christian Church.
And yet no matter how many years and decades pass, the Avon Academy will always have Sam Clemens as the answer to one of its main trivia questions.
Who was the first graduate?
Those interested in learning more about Simon Youth Academy at Avon should go to ahs.avon-schools.org/avon-academy.