At-risk students change course at leadership academy

DENVER - Just because they don't have the best circumstances at home doesn't mean they can't have a bright future.

"We want to serve all young people that we possibly can that are at-risk of not going to college," Lonnie Porter, head basketball coach from Regis University, said.

Porter and Colorado basketball star Chauncey Billups teamed up to find a way to get good kids out of bad situations. The summer program is called the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy. Many of the students they try to impact are minorities from low-income families. Some are new to the country. Others face medical problems at home amongst other factors.

"Me and a friend of mine, we were pretty bad. We were knuckleheads," Javier Seward said.

Seward is a 16-year-old student who attends Rangeview High School in Aurora. He has been part of the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy since he was in third grade.

"I wasn't like criminally bad, but I just wasn't a genuinely good kid," Seward said. "I feel like they straightened me out."

Porter says he wants kids to learn to use their brains academically and socially.

"Just verbal skills, relating to other people, conflict resolution." Porter said.

The program boasts these numbers as proof of success:

  • Since the first graduating class in 2002, 98.2 percent (107 of 109) of students graduated from high school on time.
  • The 15 seniors in the class of 2013 had an average GPA of 3.3 and an average ACT score of 22.4.
  • Of the Academy students whose home schools offer AP/Honors classes, 85 percent of Academy juniors and 92 percent of seniors have taken them. About 75 percent of Academy students have access to AP/Honors classes.

"We think we're doing a pretty good job, but there's room for improvement," Porter said.

The kids involved in the program are usually nominated by their teachers. It is a free program to students. Fundraisers support the leadership academy. For students who complete the academy and meet all the requirements, they are guaranteed a scholarship and spot at Regis University.

Seward says this program is saving him from a negative outcome that likely would not include a degree.

"I'm gonna be the first person in my family to graduate from college," Seward said. "There's not words to describe to fully explain how I feel."

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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