Camelot Education’s Chicago Excel Academies Offer Innovative Opportunities for High School Students to Earn College Credits
For the last six years, Celeste Sulaiman’s students at Camelot Education’s Chicago Excel Academy of Englewood have received an advanced kind of learning. Beyond the typical classroom work, these high schoolers have the opportunity to push themselves with college-level courses.
“It’s different from the everyday class,” says Sulaiman, who serves as Englewood’s executive director. “The rigor is different. The expectation is different. It gives students a hands-on approach. It ultimately opens up different lanes for our students and helps bring clarity to their postsecondary planning.”
Students at Excel Academy of Englewood and Excel Academy of Roseland, part of the Chicago Public Schools Options Network, can take college-level courses through dual credit and dual enrollment classes. The courses empower students to enter college with credits under their belt and the experience necessary to succeed in higher education. The college coursework helps students as they develop their postsecondary plans — one of the requirements for Excel Academy students to graduate with a high school diploma.
Between the two schools, 20 students are currently participating in one or both programs.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to have a jumpstart for college,” says Ariel Willis, Excel Academy of Englewood 12th-grade student. “I look forward to going into college having already earned credits.”
Willis sees the experience not only as an investment in credits, but as an opportunity to gain knowledge she can build on in the future. Willis enrolled in Introduction to Social Work (101), which has helped her to feel more prepared for college lectures and in-depth assignments.
“I enjoyed gaining a better understanding about the topic I am studying,” Willis says. “I expect to apply the techniques I am learning to the assignments I have in future coursework.”
Other college course offerings include Business 101, and sociology courses including Introduction to Urban Community Studies.
“Dual enrollment” courses give Camelot students the opportunity to take a college class on college campuses. Camelot offers dual enrollment opportunities in conjunction with Northeastern Illinois University. Excel Academy of Englewood has offered dual enrollment to students for the past six years, and Excel Academy of Roseland has had the program in place since 2016.
In addition, both schools also offer “dual credit” courses. Camelot works with Kennedy King and City Colleges of Chicago to bring college curriculums to the students. Students who wish to earn college credits do not have to commute to the college campus. The Excel Academy of Englewood has offered dual credit courses for the past three years, and the Excel Academy of Roseland has offered students the program for the past two years.
Both Excel Academies are accelerated schools of choice in partnership for 16-to-21-year-old students who have disengaged in their education or have fallen behind. Students choose to attend Excel Academies because of their high-quality, accelerated academic curricula that allows them to advance through high school and earn their high school diploma.
“This is a premier opportunity for students to want to invest in themselves,” says Colby Chapman, director of student services at Excel Academy of Roseland. She sees dual credit and dual enrollment programs as an opportunity for students to experience the in-depth learning that comes with a college course. “Our students are thrilled to have another resource and excited to earn college credit. I always tell our students to take opportunities that put them in a position of excellence. Dual credit programming is such an opportunity.”
Chapman and Sulaiman are excited to expand dual credit programs, which are taught by Excel Academy of Englewood and Excel Academy of Roseland teachers, with whom the students know and trust.
Teachers have leapt at the opportunity to teach dual credit programs, which provide the instructors with a unique opportunity for professional development. Through the programs, they get experience teaching college courses. “Teachers enjoy being able to use their background and expertise to teach the students on a new level,” Sulaiman says.
Abronia Young will teach Business 111 to as many as nine students this spring. Young has two master’s degrees and 10 years of business experience. She plans to leverage her training and experience to inspire tomorrow’s business leaders.
“My plan is to give students a window of what it looks like to start a business from start to finish,” says Young. “I want my students to come away with an understanding of all aspects of running a business. We will cover accounting, inventory, marketing, customer service and more through a five-day-per-week course.”
Young has big goals for her students. “With this class, we are training students to be part of the future by giving them the tools they need to grow and be competitive in the market.”