Phoenix Collegiate Academy


TED SIMONS: WHEN RACHEL YANOF JOINED TEACH FOR AMERICA, A PROGRAM THAT SENDS COLLEGE GRADUATES TO TEACH IN LOW INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS, HER LIFE CHANGED. YANOF WOUND UP IN SOUTH PHOENIX AND WHAT SHE SAW THERE INSPIRED HER TO CREATE THE PHOENIX COLLEGIATE ACADEMY. PRODUCER SHANA FISCHER AND PHOTOGRAPHER ROB MCJANNET SHOW US HOW A PROMISE UNLEASHED POTENTIAL.

SHANA FISCHER: AT THE PHOENIX COLLEGIATE ACADEMY, STUDENTS LEARN MORE THAN READING, WRITHING AND ARITHMETIC.

SHANA FISCHER: IT'S ABOUT PERSEVERANCE, DETERMINATION AND FORTITUDE

RACHEL YANOF: CHILDREN HAVE EVERYTHING THEY NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL WHEN BORN.

SHANA FISCHER: PCA IS THE BRAIN CHILD OF EDUCATOR RACHEL YANOF. IN 2009, SHE SET OUT TO CREATE A SCHOOL SHE SAID WOULD TRULY SERVE THE COMMUNITY. THAT COMMUNITY IS SOUTH PHOENIX, MOSTLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND LATINO NEIGHBORHOODS. YANOF SAID THE CHILDREN HERE ARE OFTEN WRITTEN OFF AND MADE TO FEEL AS IF HIGHER EDUCATION, LET ALONE GRADUATING HIGH SCHOOL IS NOT POSSIBLE.

RACHEL YANOF: EVERY KID, NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, WHERE YOU COME FROM, WHAT YOUR BACKGROUND IS, WE ARE GOING TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO HELP YOU REACH YOUR MAXIMUM POTENTIAL. AND I TRULY BELIEVE THAT MEANS EVERY KID SHOULD BE PREPARED TO HAVE THE CHOICE OF COLLEGE. THAT SHOULD BE ON THE TABLE.

SHANA FISCHER: ADAM JACKSON A SENIOR AT PCA.

ADAM JACKSON: MY ACADEMIC COURSE LOAD THIS YEAR IS THE MOST RIGOROUS THAT IT HAS BEEN IN ALL OF HIGH SCHOOL. I HAVE FOUR AP CLASSES WHICH ARE VERY DEMANDING.

SHANA FISCHER: HE SAYS THE EDUCATION HE RECEIVED ALONG WITH HIS TEACHERS HELPED HIM REACH HIS GOAL OF COLLEGE AND THEY WERE THERE WHEN ADAM SUFFERED A TRAGIC LOSS A FEW MONTHS AGO.

ADAM JACKSON: MY FATHER'S DEATH HAS BEEN REALLY HARD ON ME. I HAVE TO SAY THAT AT SOME POINT I DID SORT OF GIVE UP ON SCHOOL. LIKE I WASN'T TRYING AND IT SHOWED IN MY GRADES SOMEWHAT.

SHANA FISCHER: ADAM GOT BACK ON TRACK AND HAS BEEN ACCEPTED TO 14 COLLEGES. HE PLANS TO STUDY LITERATURE AND MUSIC AFTER GRADUATING.

ADAM JACKSON: I THINK THAT DAY WILL BE VERY EMOTIONAL CONSIDERING THAT THE GRADUATION DAY IS ACTUALLY HIS BIRTHDAY SADLY ENOUGH. SO, I AM SURE THAT DAY WILL BE LIKE EMOTIONAL AND WILL JUST MEAN THAT I IN SOME RESPECT DID HIM PROUD. I DID WHAT HE ALWAYS WANTED TO SEE ME DO. GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL.

SHANA FISCHER: PCA STARTED SMALL. ITS FIRST YEAR WAS ONLY SIXTH GRADERS. TO EVEN GET THOSE STUDENTS YANOFF AND HER TEAM WENT DOOR TO DOOR CONVINCING PARENTS TO TRUS TRUST HER. SHE WAS THRILLED WHEN THEY SAID YES. WHAT SHE NEVER EXPECTED WAS THE SHEER DETERMINATION OF THESE YOUNG KIDS.

RACHEL YANOF: THEY GET UP EVERY DAY NOT KNOWING IF THEIR HOUSE IS GOING TO BE THERE WHEN THEY GET BACK, IF THEY ARE GOING TO BE EVICTED OR IF THEIR FAMILIES ARE GOING TO BE SAFE. IF THE STABILITY THAT THEY MAYBE SORT OF PIECED TOGETHER IS STILL GOING TO BE THERE. AND YET THEY COME TO SCHOOL AND WANT TO LEARN AND THEY WANT TO THRIVE. HOW CAN YOU NOT BE INSPIRED BY THAT?

SHANA FISCHER: KIDS WHO STARTED AT PCA ARE OFTEN THREE GRADES BEHIND WHERE THEY SHOULD BE ACADEMICALLY. SO THEY HAVE TO DIG DEEP AND PUT IN LONG HOURS TO EXCEL. IT'S THAT GRIT AS SHE PUTS IT THAT LED YANOF TO MAKE WHAT SOME CALL AN AUDACIOUS PROMISE.

RACHEL YANOF: WE PROMISE IF STUDENTS AND FAMILIES COMMITTED TO US THAT WE WOULD COMMIT TO THEM THEIR CHILD WOULD BE PREPARED TO GO TO COLLEGE WHEN THEY GRADUATED.

SHANA FISCHER: YANOF AND HER TEAM MADE GOOD ON THAT PROMISE. IN MAY OF 2016, ALL OF THE SENIORS WHO HAD BEEN AT THE SCHOOL SINCE SIX GRADE HAD POST-SECONDARY PLANS AND FOR MANY OF THEM THAT MEANT COMMUNITY COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES. MANNY MERINO WAS ONE OF THOSE STUDENTS.

MANNY MERINO: I GOT STRAIGHT A'S LIKE MY FIRST YEAR, YOU KNOW. COMING FROM FAILING CLASSES TO STRAIGHT A'S BUT WITH MORE WORKLOAD. THAT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. IT WAS BECAUSE OF THE TEACHERS AND THE WAY MISS YANOF STRUCTURED THE SCHOOL.

SHANA FISCHER: MANNY IS NOW A FRESHMAN AT ASU AND IS IN ROTC WITH HIS EYES ON MILITARY INTELLIGENCE. HE SAYS IT WAS HIS FATHER THAT KEPT HIM GOING WHEN SCHOOL GOT TOUGH. A RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC, MANNY'S DAD ENDED UP GOING BACK TO SCHOOL HIMSELF EARNING HIS GED, HIS GRADUATE DEGREE AND NOW HIS MASTERS.

MANNY MERINO: IT'S VERY INSPIRING FOR ME TO SEE HOW QUICKLY HE CHANGED HIS LIFE AND IT MAKES ME WANT TO BETTER MYSELF.

SHANA FISCHER: STORIES LIKE THAT ALSO INSPIRE ART TEACHER SHARAH NIETO. SHE MOVED FROM CALIFORNIA TO ARIZONA TO TEACH.

SHARAH NIETO: I ABSOLUTELY AM MUCH MORE INVESTED IN THEIR SUCCESS, YES. IT IS ONE REASON WHY I CHOSE THIS SCHOOL SPECIFICALLY. FOR ME PERSONALLY, IT HAS BEEN IMPORTANT FOR ME TO GIVE BACK TO MY COMMUNITY.

SHANA FISCHER: A COMMUNITY OF STUDENTS THAT HAS SHOWN LIMITLESS POTENTIAL.

TED SIMONS: YANOFF SAYS THAT THE COLLEGIATE ACADEMY IS LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS TO HELP INTERVIEW STUDENTS SO THEY CAN PRACTICE PROFESSIONAL SKILLS. THEY ARE ALSO LOOKING FOR BUSINESSES WITH INTERNSHIPS AVAILABLE. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT PHXCA.ORG

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TED SIMONS: FRIDAY ON ARIZONA HORIZON, IT'S THE JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE. A NEW STATE AUDIT SHOWS ARIZONA SPENDS $3000 LESS THAN THE NATIONAL AVERAGE TO EDUCATE A CHILD AND ANOTHER MAJOR EDUCATION LAWSUIT COULD BE BREWING, THIS TIME OVER CAPITAL FUNDING. THOSE STORIES AND MORE ON THE JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE. THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS, YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

ARIZONA HORIZON IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS, MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU.

Phoenix Collegiate Academy serves the South Phoenix community. The charter school was started in 2009 by a young teacher who made a promise to parents, commit to us, and we will guarantee your child will be prepared for college. PCA made good on that promise as their first graduating class all had post-secondary plans. We talk to the founder of the school and two students.

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