Inside the Academy: Academy students settle misconceptions about alternate BV school; discuss differences in educational systems

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Tori Pippins, Staff Writer

Three girls in oversized sweatshirts and leggings quickly walk to their first hour math class.
Later, a boy walks through the halls on his way back to the library from the bathroom.
A table of girls gossip about their weekend plans during lunch.
After school, students get help with questions over what they did in class.
This is a typical day at the Blue Valley Academy (BVA).
BVA, otherwise known as The Academy, is a school system specially designed to suit the students who attend classes there. Longer but fewer classes allow students to satisfy graduation requirements more quickly than at a traditional high school. Students are able to fulfill half of a credit in only nine weeks, which is only half of the normal semester.
“BVA’s main goal is to provide struggling students with an opportunity to find success in the educational environment,” principal and art teacher Valerie Jennings said. “Our team is dedicated to providing a personalized approach to learning in a small, non-judgmental and safe environment in order to promote academic, personal and social successes.”
Jennings said BVA is a lot more than meets-the-eye.
“Students that decide to come here typically find a “home” and choose to not return to their home high school for the remainder of their high school experience,” Jennings said.
BVA graduate Miranda Cleavinger said the personal connection with the teachers was her favorite thing about BVA.
“The teachers are all amazing there,” she said. “They see [us] not only as students, but as people. They know you personally, so they can tell if you’re having a bad day. I consider myself very blessed to know them.”
BVA junior Brian Hudgens said that, unlike other high schools that he has attended, he received respect from his teachers at BVA.
“The Academy is probably one of the greatest schools I’ve ever been to. [It] lets you be you. Other high schools look at you as just any other student, and don’t think about or consider your feelings, or if you’re succeeding.”
Cleavinger said BVA is a place where a person can be themselves and not be judged
“People are afraid of those who go outside of the crowd, who don’t fit in,” she said. “At the home schools, you have to fit into a certain group or clique, but at the Academy we are family, so that doesn’t exist.”
Jennings said BVA helps students academically, socially and personally and also helps to re-establish purpose and connection.
“If a student has not found success at the home high school, yet has a goal and desire to graduate with a high school diploma, then Blue Valley Academy may be a good fit for them,” she said. “Reasons for enrolling range from struggling to keep up with homework, feeling very stressed and in need of a smaller, more personalized environment, being credit short for graduating with one’s class, or moving to BVSD from somewhere else and feeling that they are able to successfully manage in the traditional BV high school.”
This doesn’t mean BVA students didn’t do well in class at a traditional high school.
Cleavinger said her academics weren’t the problem.
“I got by,” she said. “I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, so it’s hard for me to be in large crowds or crowded hallways. With a smaller community, I was able to relax more and focus on my academics.”
Cleavinger wasn’t the only student who benefited.
“[BVA helped] me look at the educational system on a much different standpoint, which makes me love learning,” Hudgens said. “I get the help I need when I ask. It’s more of a one-on-one learning experience with the teachers.”
Cleavinger said she believes the Academy is looked down on.
“A lot of students think we are drop-outs when that’s very far from the truth,” she said.
According to BVA’s website, “Students who struggled in a traditional high school setting thrive with smaller class sizes, tailored instruction and personal attention.”
To attend classes at BVA, students are required to consult their counselors. If an administrator decides BVA would be the best choice of action for an individual, then that student is required to speak with BVA’s student advisor Chris Cullinan.