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Village Academy One Year

at one year, Village Academy celebrates student successes

By Lois K. Solomon
Education Writer

May 18, 2001

DELRAY BEACH + Village Academy opened in August, promising that students other schools had given up on would excel.

Teachers and parents say the academic miracles already have begun. At a dedication ceremony on Thursday, they proudly showed off the students, some of whom did not even recognize letters of the alphabet when they started.

The school, built by the Palm Beach County School District with more than $1 million in private donations, celebrated its success with a ceremony that included singing, speeches and vows to continue its 10-year mission: a 90 percent high school graduation rate.

"No one will fail," Principal Gale Fulford said. "Success is the only option."

Village Academy, which teaches kindergartners and first- and second-graders this year, is designed to eliminate the effects of poverty through education. It is open to students who live in the southwest neighborhood of Delray Beach, where many young people are lured into drugs and crime. The school will add a grade a year.

Parent Eunice Simmons said her son, Travon Palmer, who had to repeat second grade, is thriving.

"I have no problem getting him to school anymore," Simmons said. "He was getting in a lot of trouble at his other school, and now he gets As and Bs and makes the honor roll. They work closely with the kids here. There's more one-on-one attention."

Thanks to the grants, teachers have only 15 students in their classes, compared with an average of 26 in Palm Beach County School District classes. The students also stay until 5:30 p.m., and have the option of coming on Saturdays and in the summer.

Fulford said she is looking for 225 men and women so every student at her school can have a mentor. She introduced her own prot´g´, kindergartner Antonio Adderly. Fulford promised to keep a special eye on him for the next 11 years.

For his part, Antonio vowed to "show respect to everyone and everything" and "follow directions the first time given."

Second-grade teacher Kenya Chaney, in her first year of teaching, said she was surprised by her students' lack of basic skills.

"I've learned to accept the students where they are and give them 100 percent," Chaney said. "I think if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere."

Lois Solomon can be reached at lsolomon@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6536.

Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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