Graduates get second chance at life

June 17, 2008 4:04:06 PM PDT
Graduation season is filled with a sense of real accomplishment for thousands of students across the tri-state area, but nowhere more so than for a small group of graduates in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia. 19 former high school dropouts and overage students reclaimed their future today. They went back to school and earned a diploma from the Community Education Partners Accelerated Learning Academy.

"Once I built the courage to go on and got the courses, there was no stopping me," said class valedictorian Taleesha Mixon.

Many of the graduates overcame obstacles to get here. 20-year old Lawrence Short got into trouble with drugs and dropped out of school before re-enrolling.

Anya Patterson considered dropping out when she got pregnant with her now one-year old daughter.

"One mistake doesn't stop you. Just cause I got pregnant. Thought I was going to give up and wasn't going to be nothing. But after I had my baby I knew I had to do it. I couldn't let her get older and say I made one mistake and give up," Patterson said.

Danny Garcia is a professional boxer who was kicked out of school when amateur bouts took the then-Olympic hopeful around the world and made him miss too much class. After 3 months away from school, he found the Accelerated Learning Academy with it's flexible hours and fought his way to graduation.

"It was always my dream to graduate cause no one else in my household ever graduated. I'm the first to do it. I feel it's an honor," Garcia said.

Danny is a winner to his mother, older brother and younger sisters. If he ever becomes the world welterweight champ, he wants it to be known as the smart boxer.

"You don't have to finish school to become a world champion and have all the money. You could be a world champion but not know how to read and write. So I wanted to be different."

His 6-0 pro boxing record includes 5 knockouts. He'll fight again in August. He and his classmates armed with something no knockout punch can change: education.