Life after Camelot – Sierra Mathis
Sierra Mathis was struggling when she arrived at Camelot Academy in Philadelphia. But like so many Camelot students before and after her, she turned her life around, and is now in her second year of college.
Recently, she visited Excel Middle Years Academy, a program Camelot operates in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia. Sierra encouraged the students to take steps to achieve goals after high school whether it is at a college or university or a trade school. It is never too late to achieve your goals, and it is never too late to be great, she told them.
“A lot of kids get this mentality of like, going to a disciplinary school makes them feel discouraged. I know because I was one of them,” Sierra said. “When I went to Camelot in North Philly I was scared and paranoid, based on rumors I heard on the street. Those rumors turned out not to be true. So that’s what I came to talk to these kids about. The situation is what you make of it and you can make good things out it.”
Jaleeca Jacobs, Director of Student Services at Excel Middle Years, was Sierra’s math teacher at Camelot Academy. She reached out to Sierra as part of the school’s Life After Camelot program.
“I could tell that she was going to be successful,” Ms. Jacobs said. “She was always a leader in my classes. She was always the one that who would tell other students to do what they were supposed to do or she would lead by example.”
Sierra said the smaller environment at Camelot worked for her. “You get more one-on-one with your teacher and more help. The teacher will tell youto come back after school and she’ll help you right then and there. We’d stay in groups and work in 2’s and 3’s. Another great thing at Camelot is everybody is on the same path.”
This is Excel Middle Years Academy’s first year of operation. The District chose Camelot to operate this first “Continuation” program because of Camelot’s outstanding success with high school programs going back to 2004. The program has a capacity of 100 and serves students from all parts of the city.
“We want to prepare our kids for high school but we also want their mindset to be geared toward college,” Jacobs said. “So when we have a former student like Sierra speak to our students they not only talk about college but they talk about high school and how to succeed at the next level.”
Sierra said the middle school students were very engaged and asked a lot of questions. “They asked about my degree, how long I’ve been in college and what my time at Camelot was like. Afterward a lot of them stayed and ate their lunch with me and still had more questions.”
Sierra is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in childcare. She plans on opening her own daycare center in Philadelphia, which has a major pre-K initiative underway in which low-income children can attend quality programs for free. She expects to apply to participate and help students gain a great foundation for learning.