While success stories can be found daily and just about anywhere, most are not heard or seen by everyone. But enjoying such a privilege is precisely what local residents and owners of Interactive Education Academy (IEA) Bill Beer and his daughter, Laurie Spiegel, have the opportunity to experience on a regular basis.
While small in size, the academy, located within the Executive Plaza adjacent to Bloomingdale High School in Valrico, offers an intimate education experience focused on middle and high school students specializing in servicing teens with various learning disabilities, currently caring for about 50 students.
It is also the reason the father-daughter duo had the chance to help 18-year-old Jerrick Blue, a troubled teen who was essentially homeless having bounced from relative to relative after the death of an aunt that raised him.
In his fourth year of high school, yet unable to spell his name correctly or read simple words, Blue was labeled by teachers at Hillsborough High a “slow learner.”
Blue’s sad state but strong desire to change all that was what Spiegel of IEA needed to hear. Following the initial meeting between the two and covering the necessary steps which included an unwavering commitment, Blue began his journey toward success.
Of course, the academy is by no means cheap, and the almost $9,000 tuition would make most people think twice before applying. This was not something Blue had the luxury of having. The academy does accept students with a McKay Scholarship – a statewide program for students with disabilities. Spiegel’s help to apply for the money was just what Blue needed. “If it didn’t cover the whole thing,” Spiegel promised, “I would have waived the rest.”
The challenge seemed almost unreachable. But, Blue was ready.
“Jerrick had a lot of ground to cover to be successful,” said Beer, adding, “Those who know him think the world of him.”
Proving true to his commitment and desire to accomplish the monumental task at hand, Blue graduated from Interactive Education Academy in June, 2008.
Just prior to his big day at the academy, Blue commented, “When I walk out these doors, I am going to feel very happy. I stuck with it.”
Now 20, Blue reads well enough to fill out scholarship and financial aid applications for college. He hopes to attend Hillsborough Community College in the fall.
Success is a part of the curriculum at schools like IEA. It’s teachers knowing that what’s special about the students they serve is the fact that there is no cookie cutter approach to helping them as Beer admits, saying, “I have learned much from our students and Jerrick Blue is no exception.”
For more information about Interactive Education Academy, please visit www.interactiveeducationacademy.org.