Rubino Academy Senior Makes Big Life Changes to Graduate in January
Kamani Powell graduates this week from Camelot Education’s Rubino Academy in Mercer County, NJ, after making a dramatic turnaround in his academic performance and behavior. Now, he is looking forward to a career in auto mechanics.
Kamani plans to enroll at Job Corps, an education and career technical training program, administered by the U.S. Labor Department, that helps young people ages 16 to 24 improve the quality of their lives through career technical and academic training. His dad says it’s a way for him to continue his education without debilitating costs.
“I have always loved working on cars,” he said. “My grandma used to send me little toy cars and replicas. I would take them apart and put them back together. This has always been a passion of mine. I would like to open a garage in the future when everything works out. I say ‘when’ because it is going to happen. I just have to work toward that goal.”
Kamani, who was born in Jamaica before he and his family moved to New Jersey, concedes he took too much for granted when he arrived at Rubino Academy, a hybrid transitional school and accelerated learning program. The majority of Rubino’s students arrive overage and under-credited, and the range in the number of credits students need to make up varies from student to student. Some students come to Rubino with no credits in their third year of high school while others are behind by just a couple of classes.
“I wasn’t doing too well when I first arrived,” Kamani said. “I admit I made no effort.”
“Last year, he expected to automatically graduate,” said the school’s executive director, Antoinette Gomes. “We would pull Kamani aside and have many, many conversations about how he had to push himself. We knew he was smart and talented, a sharp young man, but we also addressed his social-emotional situation.”
The light turned on for Kamani when he watched his friends graduate, leaving him behind.
“That was a pretty big wake-up call, and it motivated me,” he said. “I realized I had to just put my foot on the gas from there on. I was very embarrassed. I thought all I had to do was show up, and I’d graduate. It turned out that was not the case. I wasn’t even close to graduating.”
Coming to Rubino Academy in the summer of 2018, after attending Princeton High School and Mercer County Technical School, Kamani was able to finish two courses over the summer and put himself on track to graduate. He then continued to take an accelerated workload of courses for the rest of 2018 and 2019.
“Kamani didn’t just turn around his academics and behavior; he became a leader,” Gomes said. “He encourages other students, and our students respect him.”
While Kamani officially graduates in January, he will return in June so he can participate in the school’s formal graduation ceremony. When he does, he will have a cheering section.
“My family is proud of me,” he said, “but they were not surprised because they knew all along I could do it.”