Special Report
College & Workforce Readiness

What It Took to Get This Teenager Back on Track to Graduate

By Sarah D. Sparks — August 29, 2022 3 min read
Nakaya Domina pictured at her home in Las Vegas, Nev., on Aug. 12, 2022. After dropping out of school during the pandemic, she returned to a credit recovery program, where her "graduation candidate advocate" has helped her stay engaged. She expects to graduate this summer, and will then enter a postsecondary program in digital marketing.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Nakaya Domina had been disengaging from school for years before she left Cimarron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas in 2019.

“I was doing horribly, because I was never in class: Ds and Fs—I think I had one C in a class,” said Domina, 18. “I just was too concerned about making more friends than focusing on my schoolwork. Like, I would go ditch class to go hang out with my friends, or I would just completely blow off all the teachers. I was just really concerned with getting the whole high school experience of the Friday night football games and finding a prom date and all that stuff that you really shouldn’t be worrying about.”

Discipline issues with some of those friends led Domina to leave school completely for six months in the first half of 2019.

Domina started at an academic recovery program in Clark County, Nev., called Acceleration Academy online, just as the rest of the district moved into quarantine in 2020. While she said she liked the flexibility of being online, disconnecting socially made it tough to stay motivated while making up more than 20 credits.

“I have [attention deficit disorder] and I kind of need people around me doing work,” she said. “I can’t just be by myself in a room, ‘cause then I’ll freak out and be like, ‘Oh my God, I’m falling behind,’ or ‘I’m going too fast’, or I’ll just think I’m doing something wrong.”

“The most challenging part was trying to learn how to change from focusing all my time on making friends and putting all that time into studies. I would not do schoolwork for a couple days ‘cause I was so upset. I’d go on Instagram and see them out partying. I’m like, I could be with them right now, but instead I’m over here doing school,” Domina said. “I was really angry at everything.”

Domina began to regain her momentum with the help of her “graduation candidate advocate"—an individual mentor who got her back on campus for full-day classes three days a week.

“We had a lot of long talks when I’d go to campus,” Domina said. “And she was like, ‘Girl, you better get your head on straight. Here’s what I did when I was younger and here’s what you’re doing; I want you to go in the other direction.’ She knew when I was goofing off and not doing anything and she called me out.”

Clark County’s is the largest dropout recovery program in Acceleration’s seven-state network, with about 1,300 students this fall. Margaret Sharp, the chief education officer for the nonprofit Acceleration Academies, said students need mentors who can help them think beyond graduation.

Nakaya Domina pictured at her home in Las Vegas, Nev., on Aug. 12, 2022. After dropping out of school during the pandemic, she returned to a credit recovery program, where her "graduation candidate advocate" has helped her stay engaged. She expects to graduate this summer, and will then enter a postsecondary program in digital marketing.

“There’s a huge dropout population out there, with a really big district and … a unique area for programming because of the casinos,” Sharp said. “It’s the city that doesn’t sleep and kids that drop out can go and work parking cars and make $60,000 a year. So the value proposition has to be broader, to help kids see why that kind of job might sound good when you’re 18 years old, but eventually it’s not going to lead to long-term financial security without a high school diploma.”

To keep Domina thinking long-term, the school connected her to a local company willing to pay her to become certified in digital marketing analysis after she graduated this August.

To re-engage students who have dropped out during the pandemic, Domina said, schools need to offer more mental health and other social supports, rather than only focusing on academic credit recovery.

“Help the kids get more psychological help—a counselor or a psychiatrist at school or at least have someone to turn the kids towards, so they’re not stuck in their head, going crazy,” she said.

At Acceleration, by contrast, “you just reach out and say, ‘Hey, I’m going through a rough time. I need some help here.’ And they’re right away like, ‘OK, well, here’s the programs we have. We’ll call them and tell them to reach out to you.’”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Combatting Teacher Shortages: Strategies for Classroom Balance and Learning Success
Learn from leaders in education as they share insights and strategies to support teachers and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Reading Instruction and AI: New Strategies for the Big Education Challenges of Our Time
Join the conversation as experts in the field explore these instructional pain points and offer game-changing guidance for K-12 leaders and educators.
Education Webinar The K-12 Leader: Data and Insights Every Marketer Needs to Know
Which topics are capturing the attention of district and school leaders? Discover how to align your content with the topics your target audience cares about most. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Spotlight Spotlight on Career Readiness & Technology
This Spotlight will help you learn about workforce readiness after-school programs, the benefits of virtual work-based learning, and more.
College & Workforce Readiness What's Next for AP? 4 Takeaways From a College Board Official
In a recent interview with Education Week, the head of the Advanced Placement program discussed a variety of priorities and principles.
3 min read
Trevor Packer, head of the College Board’s AP Program speaks at the AP Annual Conference in Seattle, Wash. on July 20, 2023.
Trevor Packer, the head of the College Board’s AP program, speaks at the organization's annual conference in Seattle in July.
Ileana Najarro/Education Week
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion What We Lose With the End of Affirmative Action
My own path to higher education demonstrates the importance of reaching out to students of all backgrounds, writes a Harvard medical student.
David Velasquez
5 min read
Illustration of hands and puzzle pieces.
DigitalVision Vectors / Getty
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says Pandemic High School Grads Are Sticking With College. States Want to Make Sure They Finish
Students' college persistence rates are back to what they were before COVID hit.
7 min read
Harvard University freshman Daniela Andrade on campus October 12, 2021 in Cambridge, Mass.
Harvard University freshman Daniela Andrade on campus Oct. 12, 2021, in Cambridge, Mass.
Angela Rowlings for Education Week