Teens facing difficult situations at home will now get a chance to sleep in a safer environment at the Life Learning Academy (LLA), a public charter school helping struggling students on Treasure Island.
The school celebrated the opening of a new dormitory for 24 students on Wednesday at an event attended by notables including Mayor London Breed.
“The dormitory is a home that represents love and support, where students would be able to thrive, grow and have the best of what they deserve,” said Teri Delane, 65, the Life Learning Academy’s principal since 1998.
Life Learning Academy has 60 full-time students with a history of school failures and provides credit recovery programs and project-based learning in small class capacities. The school teaches courses in engineering, gardening, digital media storytelling and bike mechanics.
The construction of the new dormitory is part of a greater effort to tackle students’ homelessness and housing insecurity.
“I got five kids who died because they dropped out of school and ended up facing chaos, insecurity and insanity,” said Delane.
A former runaway and heroin addict who was beat up by her then-boyfriend at 16, Delane got a second chance in life when she was picked up from the street at 20 by the Delancey Street Foundation, the non-profit that founded the charter school.
“I am the living proof that your circle of support does not have to be blood to succeed,” said Delane.
Angie Williams, 15, a sophomore high-school student at the Life Learning Academy, is among the students who will move into the new dormitory. She faced personal issues at home and already enjoys the welcoming atmosphere of the dormitory.
“Here, you have kids that love you. It is going to calm the air around,” said Williams.
Kiara Malone, an 18-year-old senior, and Cassiyah Holmes, a 17-year-old senior, have been best friends for five years after meeting in the sixth grade at Marina Middle School. They said the dormitory will help them be more independent and step out of their comfort zone.
Lynn Ward, a Life Learning Academy alumni, believes the dormitory will help the students to focus more on their studies and less on their personal hardships.
“It would have changed my life,” said Ward.
Breed said she dealt with difficult circumstances during her childhood similar to those faced by the students, including the incarceration of her brother and the loss of a sister after a drug overdose.
“When I was growing up, we did not have the Life Learning Academy,” Breed said.
In a tour of the new dormitory, Breed provided students with baskets full of items including toothbrushes, toothpastes, shampoos, soaps and razors.
Delane has a bigger dream, to make the school a model throughout the country.
“I want other schools to know what’s possible when you can no longer go home each night knowing that you have kids that don’t have safety,” said Delane.