The pioneers at Wake County’s first boys only and girls only schools celebrated Tuesday their role in helping turn single-gender schools into a reality at a time when some in the community questioned the concept.
The 38 graduating high school seniors from both leadership academies had to overcome opposition and obstacles that nearly kept their schools from opening. But as they turned their tassels Tuesday night at Meymandi Hall in downtown Raleigh, the graduates remembered the brotherhood and sisterhood they formed at their small schools.
“We’re just so close compared to other schools,” said Teresa Basaves, 17, a graduate of the Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy. “We know everybody in the graduating class. We can count on each other.”
The female academy and the Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy serve students in middle and high school. Students can graduate with both a high school diploma and as much as two years of college credit.
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Most Triangle high schools will hold graduation ceremonies in June. But schools like the leadership academies that closely work with colleges and universities are holding graduations now.
But it wasn’t so certain four years ago that the academies would be in a position to eventually have graduates.
When the concept was proposed in 2011, groups such as the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union questioned whether Wake was rushing the schools through too quickly. The groups also questioned whether Wake students would be better served in a single-sex environment than a co-ed environment.
Some of the concerns were born out in April 2012 when William Peace University pulled out of a deal to house the academies and to allow the students to take college courses. Wake switched plans, eventually locating the boys in the former Thompson School and the girls at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind.
The college issue was resolved in October 2013 when St. Augustine’s University agreed to partner with the academies.
“The number of families who hung in there and stuck with us all this time means a lot,” said Ian Solomon, principal of the male academy. “It’s heartwarming to see these young men accomplish the things that they have.”
Solomon and Carla Jernigan-Baker, principal of the female academy, said offering single-gender classes has allowed them to eliminate some of the distractions found in co-ed schools and to adjust how they teach students. The students stay in single-gender classes until their junior and senior years when they take courses at St. Augustine.
“We were able to learn that we do have a place in society,” said Basaves, the female academy graduate. “It’s not all about the males. We were able to speak up for ourselves and advocate for other women’s issues.”
Emma Goodwin, 18, valedictorian of the female academy, added that it’s helped because research has shown that teachers call on male students more than female students in class.
“I feel like being here at this school has made me such a different person,” Goodwin said. “I just don’t think I’d have been who I am today had it not been for this school.”
Kameryn Garel-McCullough, 17, was initially skeptical of attending an all-boys school. But the new graduate said he thinks the experience helped him develop his learning style.
“One of the things they told us when we first got there is men and women think differently and learn differently,” Garel-McCullough said. “I feel like we were able to learn better as single gender and figure out what works for us and our abilities.”
Even with the opening of the two academies, there are still relatively few public single-gender schools in North Carolina and the nation. The state’s first single-gender charter school, the Leadership Academy for Young Women, is scheduled to open in August in Wilmington.
This year, 308 students applied to attend the Wake academies this fall with the majority being turned down.
“I think the results have been positive,” said school board member Keith Sutton, who proposed the schools in 2011. “It seems that the community has come around in its support of the schools.”
Some Triangle high schools have already held graduations, but most won’t start until June. Here is a list of some upcoming graduations:
Wake Early College of Health and Sciences, 7 p.m. at Meymandi Hall
Early College, 9 a.m. at N.C. Central’s McDougald Gym
City of Medicine Academy, 12 p.m. at N.C. Central’s McDougald Gym
Middle College, 3 p.m. at N.C. Central’s McDougald Gym
Southeast Raleigh High, 4 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium
Durham Academy, 3 p.m. at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Memorial Hall
Vernon Malone College and Career Academy, 10 a.m. at Meymandi Hall
Cardinal Gibbons High, 1 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium
North Raleigh Christian Academy, at Richland Creek Community Church
Franklin Academy, 9:30 am at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Raleigh Charter High, 4 p.m. at Meymandi Hall
Performance Learning Center, 9 a.m. at N.C. Central’s McDougald Gym
Hillside New Tech, 12 p.m. at N.C. Central’s McDougald Gym
Southern High, 9 a.m. at Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium
Riverside High, 1 p.m. at Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium
Jordan High, 5 p.m. at Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium
South Campus, 10 a.m. at school
Panther Creek High, 12 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Leesville High, 4 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Rolesville High, 8 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Phoenix Academy, 6 p.m. at Extraordinary Ventures
Hillside High, 9 a.m. at Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium
Northern High, 1 p.m. at Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium
Durham School of the Arts, 5 p.m. at Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium
Partnership Academy, 10 a.m. at Stanford Middle School
Orange High, 4:30 p.m. at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Dean Smith Center
Cedar Ridge High, 7:30 p.m. at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Dean Smith Center
Apex High, 8 a.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Broughton High, 10 a.m. at school
Sanderson High, 12 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Athens Drive High, 4 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Mary Phillips High, 6 p.m. at Meymandi Hall
Millbrook High, 8 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Cleveland High, 6 p.m. at school
North Johnston High, 6 p.m. at school
Smithfield-Selma High, 6 p.m. at school
South Johnston High, 6 p.m. at school
West Johnston High, 6 p.m. at school
Clayton High, 6:30 p.m. at school
Corinth Holders High, 6:30 p.m. at school
Princeton High, 7 p.m. at school
East Wake High, 8 a.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Cary High, 12 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Middle Creek High, 4 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Longview, 6 p.m. at school
Ravenscroft School, 6:30 p.m. at school
Enloe High, 8 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
East Chapel Hill High, 9 a.m. at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Dean Smith Center
Chapel Hill High, 1 p.m. at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Dean Smith Center
Carrboro High, 5 p.m. at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Dean Smith Center
Fuquay-Varina High, 8 a.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Holly Springs High, 12 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Heritage High, 4 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Wakefield High, 8 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Knightdale High, 8 a.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Garner High, 12 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Wake Forest High, 4 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center
Green Hope High, 8 p.m. at Raleigh Convention Center