Nahara Thomas Enlisted in the Army, Graduated from Camelot Education’s Excel Academy North, and Now Prepares for College

 In Camelot Blog

Nahara Thomas credits two changes she made in her life last year for helping her focus and setting herself on the right course for success. In January, at age 17, she signed onto the Army’s Delayed Entry Program and transferred to Camelot Education’s Excel Academy North to complete her high school education.

“I wasn’t sure about my life direction or career – I was just searching. I wanted to join the Army, but I knew I had to earn my high school diploma before I could go on active duty,” Nahara said. “I left the high school I was attending because I didn’t find education relevant. It took me a long time to realize it, but I just felt out of place and felt I was just going there for attendance. I wanted to go to school to actually learn. Once I enrolled at Excel Academy North, I wanted to come to school every day. The classes were longer, so that gave me the time I needed to understand the subject or the lesson, and the teachers are fantastic. I wish I had transferred here sooner!”

Nahara had already enlisted in the Army and completed basic training when she arrived at Excel Academy North. In order to serve, she needed to graduate, which she did this month. As a mid-year graduate, Nahara will join students from other alternative education programs at the Philadelphia School District’s Opportunity Network’s mid-year graduation event on February 10.

“She’s a really intelligent young lady. She came aboard with us and has done phenomenally well,” said Excel Academy North Executive Director Kevin Marx. “She graduated on our honor roll. All of our students must have a post-secondary plan in order to graduate, and she clearly has a concrete plan.”

Nahara also calls her 10 weeks in Army basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina a life-changing experience.

“They strip away all the habits you’re used to and revamp your life,” she said. “The way you talk, the way you act, and your sleep schedule are all different. I had to sleep with 64 girls. I’m used to sleeping in a room by myself. The tasks we had to do were extremely difficult, but it was all directed toward building discipline to keep us going.”

At Camelot Education, the path to learning starts with getting to know each student and their unique needs. Relationships form the foundation of every program. According to Marx, Nahara is organized and independent, but Nahara said that basic training put those attributes to the test.

“I never had to do anything that was like a life-or-death situation, so to speak. The training taught me perseverance. I can’t play around with my life. In a combat zone, my work would be in a medical camp, but if you take on fire, you then have to become a soldier as much as you are a medic. I don’t think anyone is fully mentally prepared to go to war, but I’m as prepared as I can be,” Nahara said.

Nahara has the next several years of her life planned out. For now, she works full-time at Target. This summer she will undergo three months of training in Virginia as an Active Army Reserve combat medic. After that, she begins college at Shippensburg State University, majoring in Biology/Pre-Medicine.

As life-changing as Army boot camp was, Nahara says Excel Academy North had an equally dramatic impact on her life.

“My memories of Excel will always be about being in class and the way teachers made learning fun,” Nahara said. “I loved the civics class. We had students from many different backgrounds in class, and this was a space where we could all come together and comfortably discuss issues. And right after that, we went to Ms. Duffy for English 4. Same thing, learning was fun. Also, Excel Academy has fewer students in the classes and that allowed for a lot more interaction and attention from the teachers. To me, the most important thing the staff does is to treat you like they expect you to succeed, and they make you think about life after school. It’s more than just a high school. It’s like an extended family.”

As for the military, Nahara is quickly moving up the ranks. With her graduation, she was promoted to Private First Class. In the Reserve during college, she will train with her unit one weekend a month and two weeks in summer. Once she completes college – or if circumstances necessitate her unit to be deployed – she will transition to active duty.

Congratulations to Nahara for her remarkable accomplishments!


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