Camelot Graduate Honored by School District of Philadelphia for Overcoming Adversity

 In Camelot Blog

Imagine being a teenager and your mother has a problem with addiction. Added to this difficulty is the problem of a father who entered the United States illegally and is encountering the labyrinth of achieving legal status.

Despite these obstacles, Ana Quijada didn’t let life’s difficulties crush her spirit. She graduated from Camelot Education’s Excel Academy South in February 2019 and was recognized at the recent Student Achievers Reception by the School District of Philadelphia for being a graduate who managed to overcome extreme challenges while still achieving academically. She was nominated for overcoming her difficult upbringing.

“Her mom lost custody of Ana and her sister due to an ongoing drug dependency and the criminal activity that she engaged in to support her drug habit,” said Erin Kelly, Director of Student Services at Excel Academy South. “During this time, her father had custody of the two girls but was struggling because he is not a legal US Citizen. Despite her hardships, Ana stayed positive and excelled academically while at Excel Academy South.”

Ana said having her father around helped her so much, but as a native of Guatemala, he may have to return there soon and remain for a year before he can return to the United States. Ana, who is 18, said she would have to be 21 in order to help him remain here and achieve legal status.

“He works 12 hours a day, just about every day, but he’s always been there for us,” she said. “My mother could have helped him with his legal paperwork, but I guess it wasn’t in her mind to do that. They’ve separated. She and I don’t really talk. The teachers at Excel were so supportive. They’re really on [the students’] side. I hate to put it this way, but at my last school, I don’t think the teachers understood the students as they do here. They didn’t really seem to care at other schools, not like Excel.”

Excel Academy South is an accelerated school of choice for students that are 16 to 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 an academically rigorous and safe environment for all students.

“When Ana first came to us, it was apparent that she was a good student, but she was very quiet,”  Kelly said. “After a few weeks though she started coming out of her shell and developed strong relationships with the staff and other students. We’re a close-knit community of students and teachers, and we really have to be. Many of our students come from troubled backgrounds, but they learn not to let those problems defeat them.”

Ana plans to attend Community College of Philadelphia as her next step on the path to success.

“I’m thinking of going into education and becoming a teacher myself, but I’m still not completely certain yet. I know I want to work with children, and Community College seems like a great place to begin.”

Ana was one of nearly 60 student achievers city-wide recognized for their perseverance through personal and academic adversities to reach academic success.

Aldustus Jordan, senior vice president from Wells Fargo Bank, which awarded each honoree $100 and presented The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia with a check for $30,000, said, “we are here to celebrate all of your accomplishments. I know that many of you have overcome adversity in your lives but you are here today because of the grit and determination that each and every one of you possesses that has allowed you to transcend some of the challenges that life has placed in your way.

Related Article: Camelot Students Recognized in City-wide Writing Contest

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