The name of the school and its location have changed over the years but the mission of the Irene L. Chavez Excel Academy has always remained the same – to serve as an academic alternative high school for students at risk of dropping out. Now 25 years later, the school is celebrating not only a milestone anniversary, but a new name in honor of its longtime leader.
At a ceremony that recognized new school namesake Irene L. Chavez and highlighted the school’s first quarter century, District leaders praised Chavez’s commitment to the school that now bears her name.
Chavez devoted her educational career to working with at-risk students, including 24 years as the founding principal of what was originally known as Challenge High School and later became the Excel Academy. For her, it was personal. She identified with the struggles students faced completing their high school education, because she faced many of the same struggles as a teenager herself. “We all make mistakes but we have to get up, fix them, and start over,” Chavez said.
She retired from Northside in 2014 and the Board of Trustees voted to rename the school in her honor.
Today, Irene L. Chavez Excel Academy students are required to attend four consecutive hours a day. Most coursework is completed online and teachers serve as facilitators, able to work with students one on one as needed. Learning is at the students’ pace and they only take the courses they need to graduate. Depending on the number of credits they enter with, students are able to complete their diplomas in four to six months.
Thousands of students have earned diplomas through the years and have been able to go on to the military, higher education, and the job market.
The Irene L. Chavez Excel Academy remains a school that believes all students can succeed and graduate when an alternative, but rigorous, environment is provided.
Visit the Northside Facebook page for an album of pictures from the ceremony.
To watch a Video Tribute, click here.