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‘We’re here to shock the world and we’re doing it’: Lowcountry Acceleration Academy Team Builds Trust in Community, Relationships Follow

Erin Franey and Dr. Jacinta Bryant were miles apart on a Microsoft Teams call, but the director of enrollment for Acceleration Academies and the director of Lowcountry Acceleration Academy were working toward a common goal: connecting with potential students and families to build dynamic relationships.

At Lowcountry Acceleration Academy in North Charleston, the students are called “graduate candidates”, a moniker which Bryant says is meant to encourage and promote the goal of guiding them to achieving a high school diploma. “We know what the barriers are, whether it be truancy or high failure rate, but our team spends a considerable amount of time studying these barriers so our GCs can rise above them,” said Bryant.

“We want to emphasize to our students and families that even though it may have been a slow start in the traditional school setting, we can begin a conversation of how to build you up to be successful from where you are right now,” said Bryant, a Charleston native and veteran educational leader.

Using tools and resources from the Acceleration Academies network — like bilingual call centers, home visits and an extensive follow up system — Lowcountry Acceleration Academy, a public charter high school located in Charleston, S.C., can extend the “boots on the ground” strategy the network team provides. “We provide ample support to the kids because a lot of them don’t have adults in their corner to support them,” said Franey. “We take a lot of pride in this personalized support.”

But perhaps the most important asset the new public charter high school, which opened on Aug. 2, 2021, has at its disposal is the community. “I knew I had to come into this role with the mindset to not only build trust with the Charleston and surrounding communities but show the community that we can support students and families even more,” said Bryant.

The Lowcountry Acceleration Academy team began working with a local resource center in Charleston whose mission is to distribute food every Wednesday. Bryant said this was a win-win for the school and the community organization because by forming this partnership, families with children were served meals while hearing about the opportunity to enroll at the school. “We work with community groups to tell their message while telling our message at the very same time,” said Bryant. “The impact is double what it could be if we were taking on this effort alone.”

Through its engagement with community groups and students looking for a different path to a diploma, the school has proven that you can grow and develop a group of individuals who may be disconnected from school by building a relationship, being an accountability partner and building trust with the community. “We’re here to shock the world and address the needs of those who were otherwise deemed unfit for school,” said Bryant.

Lowcountry Acceleration Academy (LAA) is a free public charter high school opening in August 2021 at 5935 Rivers Ave. in North Charleston. The Academy’s mission is to re-engage young adults who have not experienced success in traditional high school settings by helping them to identify their academic and personal potential, overcome obstacles, build confidence —and pursue a personalized academic program to earn their high school diploma and build the foundation for a brighter future.