REAL Academy off to strong start in Houston ISD

Dec 13, 2022

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A new school-based program, called the REAL Academy – Reimagining my Education and Life – has opened its doors to students in Houston ISD this 2022-23 school year. This program, which began to take shape back in 2019, was developed by Marvin Pierre, Co-Founder and Executive Director of 8 Million Stories (8MS).

The need for scale

Marvin’s first accelerated diploma program, 8MS, is a nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable youth through education, training, employment, and relationship building. The program was founded in 2017 and was originally housed inside a church on the southeast end of Houston.

In 2019, Marvin joined Good Reason Houston’s inaugural fellowship program. Through the fellowship, a long-lasting partnership was born. Both Marvin and Good Reason Houston’s Managing Director of Emerging School Support, Meron Tekle, worked to think about how the impact of 8MS could reach more students who need these unique school model options to obtain their high school diploma.

Scaling for success

In 2021, conversations with HISD began around how to bridge the work of 8MS with the needs of the overaged, under credited, and at-risk of dropping out youth in Houston. From there the REAL Academy was born.

The REAL Academy currently serves as a dropout prevention program for HISD, where students can come to receive more small group work, credit recovery, wrap around services, and to gain interpersonal skill building. REAL Academy follows the 8MS core belief that relationships matter. Making kids feel seen, heard, and loved is at the base of everything they do.

“This program is a response to the needs of our city’s youth,” said Marvin Pierre. “We can’t ignore them. We must meet them where they are and connect them back to education so that they can have the opportunity to succeed in life and contribute meaningfully back to society. The REAL program does just that.”

The REAL Academy and 8MS run a variety of learning programs: an accelerated credit recovery, a GED program, and a career readiness program (8MS Works). As they move into the new year, they will launch their “Sons of Promise” mentorship program, and open their 8MS Learning Lab, a hands-on program that will train students in clear energy careers, cosmetology, barista work, and more.

Full-steam ahead

In the REAL Academy’s first semester operating as a program within HISD, they have already seen leaps and gains in their students. Currently, it serves students in Chavez High School, Milby High School, Wheatley High School, Madison High School, Sterling High School, Worthing High School, and Yates High School.

The program has maxed out their current capacity and has plans to expand to accommodate more students for the next school year. Additionally, other districts and nonprofits in Houston are looking to REAL to rethink what is possible for our most vulnerable youth in Houston. Good Reason Houston is excited to continue supporting the work of 8MS and the REAL program.

If you are interested in learning more about REAL Academy or have questions about new school models, please email fellowship@goodreasonhouston.org.

Real Academy HISD program desks
Real Academy HISD program class
Real Academy HISD program wall