Charter School grads leave high schools with high school and college diploma

Miami-Dade, FL -- Every graduate has a tale to tell. After all, they have accomplished a great deal in their 17 or 18 years thanks to grit, focus, or a supportive teachers and family. However, there are few stories at Mater that stand out.

Carlos Enriques Eguilluz Rosas has attended Mater Academy since Kindergarten. Always a good student, Carlos and his family suffered tremendously when his father was deported to Peru. Carlos was just eight years old then and immediately began working at his mother’s business to help his family. He continued working with his mother after school and on weekends, while also tutoring friends and fellow students, participating in extracurricular clubs, and carrying a full high school and college schedule. Now a senior with a 2-year college degree under his belt, Carlos is heading to Wesleyan University in Connecticut this fall. A few weeks ago, he was awarded a Gates Millennium Scholarship. This elite scholarship covers tuition, room and board, books and travel for the next ten years. Funded by a $1.6 billion contribution from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Millennium Scholarship also provides scholarship recipients with mentors, academic support and the opportunity to meet and study with other Millennium scholars. Carlos is just one of 1,000 students that were awarded the scholarship this year, selected from a pool of 52,000 applicants.

Maria Karla Saenz found her voice at Mater Academy. “I never lacked anything at Mater,” she said recently of the array of extracurricular clubs and activities on campus. “My passion is international relations so I joined the Model UN. I had stage fright so I joined Future Business Leaders of America.” Thanks to the school’s well-rounded curriculum and extensive dual enrollment program, Maria, 18, is graduating with an Associate Degree. She will attend Hamilton College in New York this fall on a Posse Foundation Scholarship. She plans to major in International Relations and Latino Studies.

Lianet Rosado was eight years old when she arrived in Miami from Cuba. Not knowing a word of English she was placed in ESE classes at school, struggled academically, and was held back in 3rd grade. All that changed when she started at Mater Academy in the 8th grade. “I was able to grow here,” says Lianet, “the teachers challenged me and pushed me to do more.” A Questbridge Scholar, Lianet will attend Wesley College in the fall.

“I’m very proud of all our graduates. They have all worked very hard to make academic strides and be the absolute best they can. Not just academically but in their personal lives. These are kids that may come from families who struggle financially, but that didn’t impede their grades or their fierce determination to succeed,” explains Judith Marty, Principal of Mater Academy Middle and High School. “The students who graduated from our dual enrollment program with Miami Dade College were able to balance an incredibly rigorous high school curriculum with tough college courses. Many were also involved in after-school activities, sports, service and interest clubs, and honor societies. They did it all and they did it well.” Ms. Marty estimates that more than 300 students at Mater Academy took dual enrollment courses this year offered at Miami Dade College and Florida International University.

Ranked among the best high schools in America by US News & World Report, and a winner of the College Board’s Breakthrough Schools Award, Mater Academy is a public charter middle and high school located at 7901 NW 103 Street in Hialeah Gardens. Mater Academy’s strong academic track record has been recognized by the Florida Department of Education and Miami-Dade County Public Schools. In 2009, Mater Academy Middle was one of just ten schools in the country recognized for dramatically improving student achievement, and named a Breakthrough School by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

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