Success Academy ranks No. 1 in nation for preparing students for college

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The Southern Utah region has received national recognition thanks to high-schoolers wanting to further their education by going the extra mile. 

Success Academy, the public charter high school that is partnered with Dixie State University, Southern Utah University, and the surrounding high schools was ranked the No. 1 high school for low-income students in “Beating the Odds” and 18th in “America’s Top High Schools 2015.”

Newsweek annually ranks high schools based on how well the school prepares the students for college. The schools are scored by their college readiness, graduation rate and college bound rate. The rankings in Newsweek gave recognition this year to high schools giving dual credit, which is when a student takes a college course and receives high and college credit for the class, instead of just advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses. This finally put Success Academy in the rankings, because all they offer is dual credit. 

Success Academy has a 100 percent graduation rate, a 100 percent college bound rate and a 100 percent college readiness rate this year according to Newsweek. 

Brian Reid, assistant principal of the DSU branch said it is nice to receive the recognition.

Success Academy began in 2005 in Cedar City and developed the St. George branch a year later. The overall enrollment is about 400: around 200 in each branch. About 45 percent of the students receive free or reduced lunch according to Newsweek, which is how the number of low-income students was determined.

Success Academy is not necessarily intended for low-income students, but rather a southern Utah center for computer, engineering, and science students. It is a public school and therefore cannot discriminate, rather students make the choice to apply and fill out the application. However,  there are only about 200 spots so if there are more applicants than spots, the luck of the draw decides who will attend the school.

 Marli Stender, a high school undeclared major senior at Success Academy from St. George said she enjoys being around other students who share their love for learning, want to get good grades and the camaraderie they have built by helping each other to do that.

“It really helps to have people that are on the same boat as you and can relate,” said Kaden Smith, a high school senior at Success Academy pursuing a music major from Santa Clara.

Through the partnerships, Success Academy provides the opportunity to graduate high school with their diploma and a college degree, tuition free. At the DSU branch of Success Academy, students spend either half their mornings or afternoons at the DSU campus receiving concurrent or dual credit and the other half at their boundary high schools. Student pursue their generals at Success Academy and mostly take electives and other high school requirements back at their boundary high schools.

“[Success Academy is] kind of the best of both worlds, I always say, because [students] can get that academic rigor of the college classes and still have that [high school] experience,” Reid said.

Success Academy students at DSU start as early as sophomore taking dual credit, juniors continue gaining credit for their generals, and by the time students are seniors they are almost fully immersed within college classes on campus. 

Reid said DSU receives some funds from the partnership, but mostly Success Academy is grateful for what the university allows them to do.

“Being on the college campus is huge,” Reid said. “[It is] invaluable.”

Reid said Success Academy emphasizes helping the students prepare for the ACT their junior year, but the rigorous course work is what really helps them to excel in those test scores.

Reid said the credit for the success of the academy goes to having great students, great parents and great faculty.

“It builds a culture of success,” Reid said.

Seniors will get the ultimate celebration by walking at DSU graduation, but for now the students, staff and faculty celebrated the school’s success by eating cookies frosted with No. 1 on Wednesday.

“It is all worth it in the end,” Smith said.