Kent School District’s iGrad Academy is a program unlike any other in the district. Comprised of six pathways, students choose from a range of opportunities. They can earn a high school diploma or two-year AA degree as iGrad fosters unique plans for individual students that did not find educational success at their previous school. iGrad offers what Principal Carol Cleveland calls a 1418 program, which follows a nontraditional calendar year, nontraditional instructional hours, a lower teacher-to-student ratio, a lower counselor-to-student ratio, and commits to addressing the needs of the whole child. These unique elements are what make iGrad one of a kind.
As a young girl, Principal Cleveland dreamed of becoming a doctor but education ran in the family. After substitute teaching in Georgia, she witnessed a lack of adequate attention given to students with special learning needs. These students were being directed down a path that would ultimately create a larger achievement gap. It was this experience that made her realize the education system needed her help.
Determined to influence educational policy, decision making, and progress for students like those with special needs, Cleveland began working tirelessly. In 2012, such determination brought her to her position today as the leader and principal of iGrad Academy.
As an advocate for specialized education systems, Cleveland is passionate about the iGrad program and curriculum. The basic principle of the program, she says, is to grant young learners and educators the flexibility to think and operate outside of the box to ensure that students are college, career, and life ready. Such a foundation enables all those who attend, and teach, to have more freedom. The teachers at iGrad all believe that students can learn and experience academic, social, and personal success. Common belief in individual potential creates a strong bond between educator and student and contributes to the success of the program.
At iGrad, relationships are everything. Principal Cleveland goes out of her way to get to know every single student. By setting up monthly meetings with students, Cleveland takes a hands-on approach as school leader. She hears directly from participants in the program about what is and is not working. For students to reach their goals, Cleveland values listening to what they want and what they need. As a result, iGrad has seen exponential educational growth.
After several years at iGrad and tracking the progress of the program and its students, Principal Cleveland is thinking about the future. By working to strengthen relationships between middle schools and high schools, businesses and colleges, Cleveland hopes to expand opportunities to teach students how to apply what they are learning in the classroom to the real world. Students gain greater insight and create more options for themselves when they learn from business professionals which skills and abilities are desirable in employees.
Unfortunately, funding remains a challenge for the program. In addition to statewide inadequacies in support for public education, Open Door programs have different accountability measures and that can directly impact funding. Even though students don’t always show academic progress in accordance with state timelines, Principal Cleveland and her staff believe that every student can learn. Many students have been given the tools needed to move forward in their educational pursuit by attending iGrad and Cleveland hopes the community will continue to support her efforts to increase the number of success stories.
Carol Cleveland’s medical career never took flight but she is healing broken dreams and changes hundreds of lives every day. Through her dedication to closing the opportunity gap and her success as the leader of iGrad Academy, she has created a pathway to success for many young adults who have struggled to find their own way. The League of Education Voters celebrates this amazing woman and her stellar program.
Caring, innovative, supportive, flexible, and successful – shouldn’t Carol Cleveland’s approach be basic education?
iGrad Academy is grateful for the support students receive from community members. If you are interested in making a donation, iGrad is always in need of the following items:
School Supplies: paper, pencils, pens, pee-chee style folders, spiral single-subject notebooks
Metro Bus tickets / Orca Cards: Help students get to and from school
Graduation Items: Gowns, Caps, Tassels
Toiletry items: for males and females, all ethnicities
New undergarments: for males and females
Gift Cards for achievement prizes: Starbucks, Fred Meyer, Target, etc…
One time need:
Female and Male mannequin (to dress in caps and gowns for inspiration)
Young Adult Books:
Many iGrad students love to read and the Academy is working to build a library of young adult books for them. If you’re interested in making a donation, there are lists of suggested titles and authors below:
King County Library System Teen Booklist:
Alex Award for Young Adult Fiction:
Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers:
Other Specific Publishers:
Other Specific Authors:
Other Specific Title:
If you prefer to donate cash:
If you prefer to donate cash, iGrad Academy has established a trust fund which is used to purchase items that will allow students to focus on their learning. In addition to the above items, the Trust Fund may purchase online access for a student without internet, required materials for a college class, or a change of clothing for a homeless student. Please call 253.373.4723 to express interest.