- Jennifer Ervin ~ Alumni and Fulbright Scholar
"I can only say good things about SAIL. It's a wonderful place. It's got a very independent approach to learning, and it's incredibly personal. SAIL worked for me because at Lincoln, I was completely capable of making good grades but I just didn't put the effort in because I didn't think that my teachers really cared and I also didn't really care about what I was learning. It was very impersonal, and if I didn't see the value in something, I didn't believe it was worth my time, and I didn't (at that point) see the value in high grades. But at SAIL, my classes were small enough that my teachers really did know me. And they knew what to expect from me, academically and personally, and so I felt the need to perform well so that they felt satisfied. I felt like I owed it to the school, my teachers, and myself to do well in school. Also, it was easier. That doesn't mean that I didn't finish with a good education. I may have never learned many grammar rules but my classes prepared me very well for college, and I learned more skills that transferred to my life outside of class. It wasn't easier as in lower quality, but it was easier as in less busywork to do.
And when I say it's a more independent approach to learning, it means that you have to take more responsibility for your own education. Even though the teachers will expect a lot from you, they really expect you to be in charge. So, the teachers will encourage you and push you, but they won't punish you too much, so you are kind of in charge of yourself. That was really good for me, because feeling like education was a choice that I made helped me to want to do well."
- Dano Beck
"I attended SAIL for my last two years of high school and graduated in 2001. I am endlessly thankful for the positive experiences that I had during those two years. I was successful in school before SAIL, but I wasn't passionate. Before SAIL, I felt that high school was something I simply had to "make it through." It was the supportive community of teachers and students at SAIL that I needed. SAIL's teachers encouraged me to explore my passions and get involved in activities. I felt challenged to do my best work because my teachers had the time to really look at my papers, my art, to listen to my thoughts in class discussions and understand my learning process. My experience at SAIL motivated me to go to college and pursue my passions. I received a Bachelor of Social Work degree from FSU in 2004. I have since been working in the area of HIV/AIDS education and advocacy while continuing to work on my Master of Social Work part time at FSU."
- Tom Parker
"I feel that my experience at SAIL pointed me towards a creative and technical career. It did this by exposing me to a multicultural and supportive environment, where I was unafraid and encouraged to take on difficult academic subjects and explore creative arts. The small size of the classes and warmness of the faculty enabled me to conquer my shyness and participate in the development of the school's MIDI music lab and computer facilities way back then. It was there that I developed a foundation for the skills that I will be using at my new job.
I had a choice to come to SAIL, and if I hadn't gone, I don't believe I would have had the same opportunities to get a head start in pursuing my dreams."
- Ryen Fermin
"I graduated from SAIL in 1999. When I attended SAIL I was Ryen Whitefield. I recently graduated from TCC with my Associate of Science in Nursing. I work as a registered nurse at TMH (Tallahassee Memorial Hospital). I graduated 1st in my class with honors and a 4.0, and received the "highest GPA award". I also received the "Cathedral Award" from TMH. I was a Nurses Now scholarship recipient. I was also a member of Phi Theta Kappa, a two-year college academic society."
- Rachel Tso
"I graduated in 1988 from SAIL. I graduated from Antioch College in Ohio with a BA in Environmental Communications in 1994. I received my 2nd bachelors from Prescott College in Education in 1998. I'm now half way through my Master of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies at Northern Arizona University where I'm attending on scholarship.
I've taught middle school English, Social Studies and K-12 Drama for 7 years before going back for my Masters. I've just received the Arizona Promising Practices in the Arts Award for a project I did with my students last year combining place based local history, social studies, English and drama. We researched a local history event, interviewed the descendents of the story, wrote the story as a play and performed it at the Museum of Northern Arizona. I couldn't have accomplished the amazing things I've done without SAIL in my life.
At 14 I was disillusioned, depressed, and disappointed with the Florida public schools. I went to SAIL and my life truly turned around - I was finally allowed the freedom to study in a way that interested me, full of creativity and art. Trisha Stapleton, one of the most incredible and loving teachers I've ever come across, recruited me to be the assistant director on the school play - she showed me that I could handle the responsibility and do it well - she believed in me and in turn I began to believe in myself.
I am forever grateful to the many talented teachers and the administration there for creating a school for us round pegs who don't fit into square holes."
- Melissa Hardison
"I graduated from SAIL High School in 2004. SAIL had prepared me for the rigors of higher education by building both my personal confidence and intellectual goals. I am currently a Junior attending Sweet Briar College (www.sbc.edu) in Lynchburg, VA, where I am pursuing two degrees in English and Studio Art. I am also a straight-A student and have consistently maintained a GPA above 3.9. I also study realist art at the atelier Studio Incamminati (studioincamminati.org) situated in Philadelphia, PA, alongside the artist Nelson Shanks. I plan to attend graduate school after I have obtained my first two degrees."
- Adam J. Arthur ~ SAIL student
While I'm glad that you chose to mention SAIL in the recent article on alternative schools, I feel that your description was a little misleading.
I am a SAIL student who can perform and has performed well in a traditional learning environment. However, I chose to attend SAIL because of its small size, which allows me to get to know my fellow students better than I ever could in a traditional learning environment, and the school enables students to get their individual concerns attended to quickly. Other reasons I chose to attend are that the instructors at SAIL make a point of caring about the welfare and success of each student; and individual expression of one's worldview and opinions is strongly encouraged.
SAIL is not a school for potential dropouts and failures, and it bothers me to see how often it's represented that way. The point of the school is that it encourages students to both achieve and be themselves, and one of the main lessons SAIL teaches its students is that academic achievement and expressing yourself don't cancel each other out.
Adam J. Arthur, 11th grade SAIL student
- Kyle Richards ~ SAIL student
I recently read the article about the "Secondary" Schools. It was okay except, for you saying that SAIL was only good for students who didn't do well in common learning environments.
I am a freshman at SAIL, and I did well in other learning environments, but SAIL is actually a lot better than it, SAIL is where our opinions matter and where we actually learn in a way that's positive to everyone around us. And I say next time you want to write an article about a "Secondary" School, get your facts straight, come talk to our students, and our staff, so you will actually have the real sight of the school.
- Kristen Griffin ~ SAIL student
If you recall, in the article recently written in the Tallahassee Democrat on October 8th, 2006 concerning “Keeping kids in school,” SAIL was mentioned in an inaccurate manner.
Noted from the article “SAIL- the School for Applied Individual Learning, for students with very high potential who can’t or don’t perform well in a traditional learning environment.” Most students who attend SAIL prefer SAIL over a traditional high school due to the teaching methods, the extra curricular activities, former graduates who have inspirited others to attend, in addition to the alternative learning environment. In other cases some students are recommended to SAIL because of their low test scores on the FCAT, or due to performance in a traditional High Schools.
The kids at SAIL all dance to the beat of a different drum, which makes for a diverse environment. SAIL is an innovative magnet school that emphasizes interactive learning, creative expression and community involvement in a caring environment of around 400 students. SAIL seeks to provide a many-sided student population with the foundation necessary to become responsible citizens in a global community. Students must meet the same credit and grading requirements as other Leon County students. However, the approach is an ever evolving dynamic one that capitalizes on the talents and interests of an open mined staff and student body.
As an current student at SAIL I personally enjoy all of the different types of life styles, personalities, and cultures seen every day at school. Attending SAIL as a freshman my Reading, Science, and English grades have increased within only a 9 week period. I did not attend SAIL because of low test scores or failing grades in my previous school, I chose SAIL for its award winning test scores that beat state and district averages, the low drop out rate and high graduation rate. Forty percent of SAIL’s graduates are eligible for “Bright Futures Scholarship” each year. Which will be handy in the future.
- Powell Kreis ~ SAIL student
I went to a traditional public school last year and managed to make pre-AP honor role and received several awards for all of my hard work there. Even though I did very well academically, I wasn't happy.
I came to SAIL because unlike most schools, there is a lot more value in the individual person. I'm no longer just a number, but I’m a student who can truly express herself and find a learning style that most suits me. I finally feel like I’m growing and preparing for the real world.
People make SAIL seem like it's just a school for "troubled" kids, but it's not. If anything, it's for people who want a different atmosphere and approach towards education. I think it's time for SAIL's reputation of being the school for the weird kids; that can't make it anywhere else to change, and become a place known for helping students have their own identity.
I'm much happier this year and I really feel like not only am I receiving a great education but I’m also getting expand as a person and learn about all different kinds of people.
- Former Student
I wanted to write and thank you for your unending stance on the importance of alternative education. Twenty-three years ago, I was a student at SAIL. While I did not stay long enough to graduate, my experience there was a foundational anchor which has been a beacon in my educational journey both as a student and teacher for the next 20 plus years.
In December I completed my master of arts in Sunderland England and am looking forward to returning to the States to return to working in education. While this sounds like the happy ending to a long and interesting adventure, it is really only the tip of the iceberg. While the people at SAIL were there for me when I was 16, I was determined to head out on my own adventure. This adventure took me across the country and what began as an edgy youth adventure ended up with me as a young adult, no longer eligible for services available to youth. I was on the streets in San Francisco, a high school dropout, homeless and pregnant. While I was able to complete my education through another alternative school and move on to many years of more constructive life application, I saw firsthand the results of a number of diverse systems that failed many youth and the many youth who did not make it.
I have worked successfully in alternative educational venues for over 12 years, as a science education curriculum developer, as a sub for high needs and resource students and in continuing / returning adult education. I believe that education is the key to social justice and that every person, no matter their age, has a right to education that works for them by working with them.
I have also enjoyed many years of successfully working as a freelance photographer and in the professional entertainment industry.
I am looking forward to returning to Florida and exploring work in alternative and charter schools. I am particularly fond of the Steiner / Waldorf education but feel those schools are well funded and in no shortage of help. I would prefer to work within the public funded schools to help make changes and guide from within.
During my post-graduate studies I was privileged to research much of the work of photographers Zana Briski and Wendy Ewald, whose literacy and empowerment through photography for youth programs have been successfully integrated in many school districts and after-school programs throughout the United States and in developing countries. I hope to be able to participate in or create a similar program in my future work in education.
I believe that through expression in the arts, youth can be encouraged to dream, explore and build self-esteem as well as foster a creative approach to encouraging, skills in literacy, science and math. This core belief was formed from my exposure to the many wonderful ideas and people at SAIL.
This is why I wanted to thank you, and everyone who is there. What you do makes a difference. What you do made a difference to me. Thank you.
I hope to be exploring schools in Tallahassee and would love to come for a visit. Please let me know if it would be alright to come by and see your new facilities and see what you are doing. I would also like to hear your story on alternative education and whatever advice you are willing to share.
Looking forward to seeing you.
Peace and grand adventures !
- Krista ~ former SAIL student
I was a student at SAIL from 1985-1990. While I have no great "success story", I am truly thankful for SAIL, the teachers and the students I was lucky enough to grow up with. I was asked to leave my "normal" school at the age of 13 and had it not been for SAIL, I may never have graduated school at all. Not that I was unable to learn, I chose not to until I was encouraged to do so by my teachers, principal and counselor, who believed in me and truly cared about me as a person, not as a statistic.
I am currently living in New Hampshire, working in the accounting department of a very successful, hi-tech company; I have travelled to Europe and experienced many things I never thought possible. My Mother still lives in Tallahassee and keeps me posted on the current events in town. Last year, she told me about SAIL moving. At first, I was in tears. It was very hard for me to imagine that my small little school of approximately 100 students had grown so much so that a new location was needed. Then, I read the article and realized that SAIL was moving to my old elementary school.
WOW! Talk about life coming around full circle. I'm so glad that the school I love so much is contributing to the education and experiences of so many generations. I'm proud that I graduated from SAIL and am so proud of all of you that do the same! Many people will come and go in our lives my family at SAIL, no matter how far away I am, will always be close in my heart!
Enjoy every moment!
Class of 1990