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‘They took a chance on us’ — Class of 2021 first to graduate from Alliance Academy for Innovation
Alliance Academy for Innovation Graduation
Photo courtesy of Cady Studios.

The class of 2021 left their mark at Alliance Academy for Innovation last week as the first students to ever graduate from the school three years after its opening in 2018.

Principal Brandi Cannizzaro, who originally opened the school, watched on Monday, May 24, as the students who first started as sophomores at the school walked across the stage during the graduation ceremony, walking away with the first diplomas awarded out of Alliance Academy.

“It has been an awesome last few weeks,” Cannizzaro said. “The class of 2021 is a really special class for us because they came to us as 10th graders, so they took a chance on us. They left their current high schools that they went to in ninth grade to start something new and start a new adventure, and it’s just an awesome, close-knit group of kids.”

Alliance Academy for Innovation Graduation
Photo courtesy of Cady Studios.
More than 140 students graduated from the school at the end of this year, most of them completing at least one of the six Career, Technical and Agricultural pathways offered by Alliance.

Cannizzaro proudly announced during the graduation that 91% of the students who walked across the stage completed a pathway. The class collectively finished 193 pathways, meaning at least 50 of the students completed more than one.

School leaders were proud to see so many students who not only successfully completed their pathways in high school, but also fell in love with what they were studying.

“That’s been really fun …. to see that come to fruition,” Cannizzaro said.

They interviewed students toward the end of the year to ask them more about their experience at Alliance, how they liked it, their plans for the future and more. Overwhelmingly, Cannizzaro said the students loved participating in the pathways and getting hands-on experience in the classroom.

Many of the students also plan on continuing in the field they studied into their career or college. Cannizzaro mentioned two students who completed their Aerospace and Logistics pathway who are attending the U.S. Airforce Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy, and they both aspire to become pilots.

“The experience here at Alliance allows them to make really great decisions on what they’re going to do next — what they’re going to major in in college, what potentially their career is going to be — because they were able to get a taste and get exposed to lots of different careers and lots of different skills that are going to be useful for wherever they’re headed,” Cannizzaro said.

The aspirations and goals for the future she sees in their class of 2021 graduates are exactly what she and district leaders were hoping to see for Alliance Academy students when they first opened the school three years ago.

Part of Alliance’s motto is “find your passion,” which administration and staff repeated to students in that first year. The school opened with only freshman and sophomore students to give them time to do just that — complete a pathway and potentially determine their future.

Back then, students who wanted to attend Alliance simply had to apply, and then they attended the following school year. Soon after, however, word got out about the hands-on pathways, and popularity skyrocketed. In their second year, Alliance began a lottery where they now pick out students who applied to attend.

“When we opened and when I interviewed for the position, I did say I hoped we would get to the point of having to hold a lottery due to the popularity,” Cannizzaro said. “We got there a little bit quicker than we anticipated, but we put a good process in place.”

The school currently offers six pathways for its students — Aerospace and Logistics; Criminal Justice and Law; Cybersecurity and Digital Intelligence; Health Care and First Responders; Hospitality and Design; and Mechatronics and Energy.

Next year, they plan to also add Financial Technology and Teaching pathways for incoming students, and especially knowing the class of 2021’s success within Alliance, Cannizzaro wants to continue to see the school, its pathways and its career and technology student organizations grow.

The class of 2021 is a group of just the first of many graduates from Alliance Academy for Innovation, but Cannizzaro said they will be incredibly missed.

“They have helped us establish many of the traditions that we will continue with and a lot of the school culture,” Cannizzarro said. “They are just always going to be near and dear to us.”