A basketball Hall of Famer is behind a new program to help high school dropouts in Illinois get their diploma. Magic Johnson has opened two of his Johnson Bridgescape Academies in Chicago, offering a free alternative learning program aimed at providing students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out a chance to earn their diploma. The program expects to open more academies around the state.
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“Our goal is to get East St. Louis, Rockford, Kankakee, Champaign - anywhere there’s a need, we want to be there in the state of Illinois,” said Will Polite, vice president of development for the program. There’s no timetable for opening academies elsewhere in the state, but Polite says that can be a quick process once school districts agree to partner with the program. According to Polite, construction of the first academy in Chicago took less than three months.
Similar academies are open in six other states, enrolling more than 1,600 students. Johnson sees the program as a second chance for dropouts. “Over 70 percent of them said ‘If I had to do it all over again, I would’ve stayed in school,’” Johnson said. “So we know they want to learn.”