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Academy offers identity
Student ready to study nursingBy Philip Stake
Three years ago Michelle Anderson-Barnes thought she would never graduate from high school.
During her freshman year, she skipped classes regularly to avoid fighting with a group of antagonistic peers. She was summoned to juvenile court on more than one occasion. By the end of the second semester, she was failing every class.
"If I was at (my former school) I probably would have dropped out by now and got my GED," Anderson-Barnes, 17, said.
But after discovering the small class sizes and caring supervision at Richard Milburn Academy, a public charter high school in Amarillo, Anderson-Barnes enrolled immediately.
"Somebody is there to look after you," she said. "You don't feel as alone, like an outcast. Whenever I went to Richard Milburn, it changed my whole outlook. Why would I drop out when I can get a high school diploma, go to college and make something out of myself?"
The positive environment has had a profound effect. She said she ended ninth grade with an overall 2.1 grade-point average. Now, the prom queen will walk the stage May 31 with a 3.3 GPA and intends to study nursing at West Texas A & M University this fall.
Anderson-Barnes said her mother, a registered nurse, helped inspire her choice of major. The decision to specialize in pediatrics and the ambition to one day work for Child Protective Services are her own, but admittedly influenced by her now 6-year-old sister, Staxia.
"I love working with kids," she said.
In part, she attributes her academic success to Gloria Chunsberry, her 11th-grade English teacher, for taking time out of her days to help when homework was confusing - even science homework - and for going above and beyond to prepare her for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.
Her parents and grandparents also have been supportive role-models, she said.
Outside of school, she enjoys bowling, volleyball and dancing. She loves to read the "An Unfortunate Series of Events" books by her favorite author, Lemony Snicket. And like most teenagers, she enjoys spending time with friends.
"She helped us out at the front between classes, very energetic ... a major force behind prom organizing," said Richard Milburn School Director Mark Peters.
"She's always been very positive ... her teachers say she lights up the room."
Celebrate Education is a yearlong community project to encourage lifelong learning and help raise the education level in the Texas Panhandle.
Editor's Note: The Amarillo Globe-News is profiling a student a day from May 9-29 as part of its 2008 graduation coverage. Students were nominated by Globe-News readers.
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