Kiera graduated at 16 from Brooklyn Democracy Academy, JCCA’s transfer school. Transfer schools represent a unique partnership between the NYC Department of Education and community-based organizations like JCCA, which reach out to young people who, for a variety of reasons, have failed in traditional high schools. Kiera was the valedictorian of BDA’s first graduating class and is now enrolled at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She is also working at the Young Mother’s Collective, where she interned her senior year.

“Before Brooklyn Democracy Academy, I went to a good high school. My problem wasn’t grades it was attendance. When I had my daughter, Mariah, there were just so many family issues, I just couldn’t handle school, even though I wanted to. When Mariah and I moved in with my grandmother, I decided to go back to school. I’d heard about Brooklyn Democracy Academy from a friend, but it was my visit there that convinced me. I interviewed them and they interviewed me and it was like we were both evaluating each other! I’m pretty shy and tend not to get involved, but at Brooklyn Democracy Academy my Advocate Counselor made sure I felt welcome and comfortable. Soon, I knew everybody and I loved it. The teachers were great, too. Some of them teach at colleges, and they really challenge you. But the best thing is how everyone is really like family there. The teachers and social workers really care, they take the time to make sure you’re OK. If there’s a problem, you have someone to go to. They expect a lot of you and it makes you live up to it.

I’m studying early childhood education at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. My plan is to get my Associate’s degree and then go on for my BA. I’m not sure what I’ll do, maybe teaching. I like working with kids and I think I’d be a good teacher I know what it takes and how important it can be in a kid’s life.

Without Brooklyn Democracy Academy, I think my life would be very different. My year there was a great experience for me and it gave me a real chance to put my life together. I love going back there to visit because, like I said, it’s really like a family for me.”