Camelot Chicago Grad Focused on Farming
For Tyjuan Lewis, Camelot’s Excel Academy Southwest in Chicago seemed the perfect choice for a young man who wanted to succeed but knew he was getting off track.
Excel Academy Southwest is an accelerated school of choice for students that are 15-21 years old and are behind in their studies. The program offers an extended day, where students can earn up to 5 credits per semester and 10 credits per year. This allows students to graduate in 2.5 years or less. Excel Academy is dedicated to creating a challenging, academically rigorous, and safe environment for all students.
“It was a perfect fit for me,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t comfortable in the school I was at. I was thinking of dropping out. Going to Excel got me back on track. The teachers and the support staff really connect with the students. It was like an extended family for me.”
Lewis, who was not planning on attending college before coming to Camelot, graduated in June 2016 and has just finished his first year at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He credits the strong relationship with his now late father and the guidance and support from his family with helping him stay focused on his studies and going on to college.
“My father was the one who introduced me to the programs that got me interested in Excel,” he said.
Lewis has a keen interest in aquaponics, an area of science many people have never heard of. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture – raising fish and hydroponics – the soil-less growing of plants. The two are nourished together in one integrated system.
“Aquaponics is a system where plants feed fish and the waste from the fish feeds the plants. The plants filter the water for the fish,” he said. “I became interested in agriculture because I actually worked on a farm when I was 15. There was a farm in the neighborhood where I grew up. My father knew the owner and asked if I could work there part-time. It really got me interested in agriculture and gardening.”
Lewis said he chose the University of Arkansas because his family is from Pine Bluff and he was interested in living in a setting away from Chicago. According to a recent report on CNN, one day in June of this year at least 21 people were shot in the city. Two of them – including a teenager – were killed. That violent day was weeks after the third-largest city in America marked its 15th consecutive month of declining killings and shootings. That decline, according to local officials, was the result of having more officers, increased community policing and investments in anti-crime technology. Lewis said his family and the concerned staff at Excel Southwest helped him stay away from the violent influences that plague many communities.
“I’m doing pretty well at school. My goal is to eventually own my own land and grow produce that can be shipped to market,” he said. “My father always said you can’t go very far without the ticket; the ticket being a good education. Would I recommend Excel to someone? Definitely. It’s a great choice and it’s going to help you better yourself.”