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The Phoenix Charter Academy Network manages a growing portfolio of free, open-enrollment, college preparatory public high schools in Massachusetts. Here’s what’s happening.

Phoenix Academy celebrates 11 graduates

HAVERHILL — The 11 graduates of Phoenix Academy Lawrence Class of 2016 walked across the stage at Northern Essex Community College’s Haverhill campus Thursday afternoon.

Phoenix Academy is an alternative high school option within the district that accepts students who struggled in a traditional school system. Phoenix serves a diverse student body with a wide range of experiences, educational backgrounds, and challenges, including high school dropouts, young adults struggling with truancy, new immigrants and teen parents.

“Phoenix targets disengaged students,” said development coordinator Amber Sinicrope. “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been out of school…our model is all about college and career readiness.”

The academy is a public school within the district, but is operated by the Phoenix Academy Charter Network. Phoenix Academy Lawrence opened in August 2012, and currently serves approximately 130 students ages 14 to 22.

When Phoenix Academy graduate Destiny Morton was attending Methuen High School, she said she was suspended more than she was in school — halfway through her freshman year she was suspended indefinitely for hitting a teacher. When she tried to transfer to Lawrence High School, she was denied.

Morton said she was coping with her mother’s death, and she felt disconnected from everything.

“I really didn’t know what was going to happen to me.”

She found out about Phoenix Academy and though the transition to a strict, structured education was difficult, she considers herself a success story.

“Phoenix’s hours made me think of going to school like going to work,” she said, referring to the school’s 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule.

Morton will continue her education at Brandeis University through the Myra Kraft Transitional Year program.

“You just have to make your own destiny,” she said.

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