Editorial Team

The Why Not You Academy (WNYA) was founded by individuals who had a deep understanding of traditional schools. They wanted to do something different and create a community-based school located in Des Moines, WA to address the need for a new type of educational institution. Scott Canfield believed in creating a school that wasn’t just about studying from books but also about experiencing real-life situations. He needed a partner who shared his dream, and that’s where Russell Wilson, Ciara, and the Why Not You Foundation joined the picture. Abigail O’Neal, CEO of Why Not You Academy, explains, “They decided to partner and create Why Not You Academy when they realized their visions and missions were aligned.”

WNYA’s goal is simple: to give every student a fair chance at success and help them graduate with the skills they need for a purposeful life. Abigail O’Neal adds, “At WNYA, we believe that education isn’t just about classrooms; it’s about real experiences, meaningful relationships, and opportunities in the community.” So, at WNYA, students don’t just sit in classrooms. They work on projects they’re passionate about, and they even get to try out real jobs through internships. Abigail O’Neal emphasizes, “This way, our students learn how to handle real-life challenges and build strong networks for their future.” Today, WNYA has become a truly international school with 17 languages spoken among the students and staff members.

Jaxon Rowland, a tenth-grader at Why Not You Academy, says that the environment at WNYA allows him to flourish, grow, and feel confident in himself. “My challenge is being Black. People tell me how I present myself is how I want to be treated. So, every time I walk into a room, people are going to look at me differently based on the color of my skin,” says Rowland. “I am not that Black kid that no one can teach. I am someone who is smart and can have an intelligent conversation. One thing about my school is when you come here, you can be yourself. Every time you step in the door, you are going to find somebody who is going to like you for who you are.”

Dynamic Initiatives in Education and Inclusion

Why Not You Academy (WNYA) is an innovative and inclusive educational institution. The academy is proud to provide its students with various opportunities for creative expression, including a cutting-edge recording studio. This state-of-the-art facility is made possible through the generous funding of the Find Your Grind Foundation, which shares the academy’s vision of empowering the next generation through the arts.

WNYA is breaking barriers in computer science education through a groundbreaking partnership with Project Grind. The academy is dedicated to bridging the digital divide, particularly for students from the Global Majority, by introducing them to the world of coding. This ensures that Black and Brown scholars are equipped with valuable skills to succeed in the technological landscape of the future.

At the core of WNYA’s educational philosophy is the “Leaving to Learn” program. This unique initiative places students at the forefront of their learning journey by emphasizing autonomy and self-discovery. The program empowers students to explore their interests and connect with mentors who guide them on their individual paths. By fostering a student-led approach, WNYA not only nurtures academic growth but also cultivates a sense of purpose and passion in each scholar.

Diversity is highly valued at WNYA, not only among students but also among the academy’s teaching staff, senior leadership team, and board of directors. The academy is firmly committed to anti-racist practices and strives to create an environment where students can see themselves represented by their educators. WNYA envisions a future where all scholars, regardless of their background, are not only prepared for college, but also equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary for successful careers. The academy firmly believes in the principles of equity and excellence and seeks to embody them in all aspects of its educational mission.

Building a Support Network

At WNYA, a robust support network is woven around all scholars who come from 50 different middle schools of many diverse backgrounds. This safety net comprises dedicated teachers, experienced school leaders, and mentors from the community. The Academy also collaborates with organizations specializing in youth development. These partners are inspiring role models, sharing their educational journeys and life stories. Abigail O’Neal emphasizes, “The goal is to provide unwavering support at every stage of the scholar’s journey.”

Each student is paired with a personal advisor. These advisors craft personalized plans for every scholar. They convene at the start of each semester to delve into the student’s interests and career aspirations. Together, they explore various career paths and identify organizations that can offer more information and potential internship opportunities.

Abigail O’Neal offers an inspiring example: “Recently, one of the scholars secured an internship with the Seattle Storm, pursuing her passion for kinesthesiology. She will gain firsthand insights from the Storm’s athletic trainer.” These personalized plans empower students to not only define their aspirations but also establish connections with professionals who can help them explore their interests.

Connecting Classroom Learning to Real-World Applications

WNYA seamlessly integrates classroom education with practical, real-world experiences to empower its scholars. This approach ensures that students gain knowledge and develop valuable skills for their future careers. In the advisory and leaving-to-learn classes, scholars actively practice reaching out to professionals in their chosen fields. They confidently make cold calls and send emails to schedule interviews with these experts. These interviews provide an opportunity for scholars to learn about the educational and career journeys of these professionals. Abigail O’Neal emphasizes, “It’s all about honing networking skills that will serve them well in their future careers.”

WNYA’s mentorship program plays a pivotal role in this process. Educational advisors and mentors engage with their dedicated class of scholars on a daily basis. During these sessions, scholars collaborate closely with their mentors to explore their goals, interests, and community engagement opportunities. Mentors work in tandem with the Advisors to identify community partners aligned with students’ interests. Importantly, these mentors stay with their class of scholars throughout their four years of high school.

Embracing Challenges and Nurturing Growth

As a new academy, WNYA has encountered its fair share of challenges while charting unexplored territories. Nevertheless, their distinctive approach to education has injected an infectious sense of excitement into their journey. They’ve quickly realized that their scholars possess a diverse range of needs, prompting them to think creatively. To support their scholars and their families, the academy has organized fundraisers and diligently pursued various grants. Abigail O’Neal states, “We’re dedicated to creating an environment where every student can not only thrive but also achieve success.”

Community engagement lies at the core of WNYA’s educational philosophy. Through a diverse array of events, collaborative partnerships for immersive field trips, enlightening career panels, and transformative internships, students don’t just passively learn; they actively engage with the world around them. Some outstanding scholars have had the privilege of interning at early learning centers, schools, and even local sports teams. These experiences empower students to ask probing questions, gain invaluable firsthand knowledge, and forge meaningful connections within the community.

At WNYA, the belief is clear: education extends far beyond the classroom. It flourishes through active engagement and meaningful community partnerships, enriching the educational experience for every scholar.

A Milestone Year and Future Horizons

The upcoming 2024-2025 school year marks an exciting milestone for WNYA as they eagerly prepare to enroll scholars from 9th to 12th grade. What makes this academic year particularly significant is the journey of their founding students, who began this educational adventure with them. These students will soon step into their senior year, becoming the very first graduating class of WNYA.

WNYA’s unique approach to education, characterized by Leaving to Learn experiences, has consistently demonstrated its success in nurturing the comprehensive growth of its students. Abigail O’Neal shares, “We’re thrilled to witness our scholars actively exploring historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) through our innovative programs. This opens doors to boundless opportunities, allowing them to reach their full potential.”

The future plans for WNYA are firmly anchored in their unwavering dedication to education and the success of their students. As they envision the day when their founding class proudly graduates, the anticipation is palpable. Each scholar walking across the stage, celebrating their remarkable achievements, will be a moment filled with immense pride and joy.

As they progress, the Academy is eager to expand their offerings by enrolling a full 9-12th high school, welcoming more dedicated staff members into their school family, and broadening their elective courses. This expansion will provide even more enriching experiences for their students. Year by year, they continue to grow, extending a warm embrace to new families who become an integral part of their school community. This growth strengthens their commitment to nurturing future leaders and lifelong learners.

For More Info: https://wnyacademy.org/

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