For students who are too far behind on credits to graduate, or for those who have already dropped out, The Academy At Mingus offers a second chance for a high school diploma.
To Tim Foist, the new superintendent at Mingus Union High School, that is no small thing. "A high school diploma in the working career of a man or woman adds $1 million to their earning power," he said.
The Academy At Mingus is new and it will open with at least 35 students when school begins the fall semester. Foist saw the idea work when he was superintendent of six high schools in Yuma. He decided the idea would work here when he found out that 10 percent of Mingus students do not graduate.
"The academy came about by people asking what more can we do for students in our area who feel overwhelmed," Foist said. He said there are ways - that aren't traditional - to help students.
He says the biggest cause of students dropping out of high school is not having enough credits. If they're failing in the core classes they eventually feel overwhelmed and drop out.
Foist believes one of the main reasons this happens is that too many students are not prepared when they reach high school. Some kids coming out of eighth grade are reading at a sixth-grade level and performing at a seventh-grade level.
High school teachers cannot always make up that difference in time to put kids on track with the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards. If they can't pass AIMS they won't graduate. Foist said the end of the first semester of the sophomore year is a critical point.
The solution, according to Foist, is to have elementary and middle schools preparing students for high school early on. "We need to design down to kindergarten and pre-school," Foist said, "then deliver it up."
For students who are already at risk or have already dropped out, Foist thinks The Academy at Mingus is the answer.
The entire curriculum is online, and the students work at their own speed on the subject matter they need to work on.
"The classes are presented at their reading level," Foist said. He said the idea is to place the student where you know he will be successful.
"They'll be here four hours a day," Foist said. The Academy intends to start with two shifts, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Eventually the Academy might offer a night class.
Before being accepted to the academy students and their parents are interviewed. "They sign a contract," Foist said. "We're pretty selective. We've got a lot of rules."
Academy students will be welcome to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports.
Foist said the Academy students will learn to feel great about themselves. "Self-esteem matters in everybody's life - everyday," he said. "They're going to become successes."
Foist believes the Academy is a great opportunity for the whole community.
"Second chances are worth the effort," he said.
Foist invites anyone interested in learning more about The Academy at Mingus to contact him direct. His cell phone number is (928) 241-0033.
The office number is (928) 634-8640, and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.