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Long commute to Oklahoma City academies doesn't curb students' drive

Students from throughout Oklahoma City commute to attend specialty high school academies in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Some spend hours every day commuting.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: October 2, 2012 at 11:22 pm •  Published: October 3, 2012

Mornings start early for academy students

Gilbert usually walks out her door at 5:40 a.m. and heads to Southeast. She usually stops at a convenience store to grab breakfast.

She lives with her mother and two sisters, but she said her mom is usually too tired to take her to the nearby school.

“She doesn't like taking me,” Gilbert said.

“She says it's too early in the morning.”

She doesn't much care for the long walk or the long bus ride to Northeast and then to Star Spencer. But she tries to stay focused on her goal: graduating high school and going to college to study business.

“There's no ‘if,' and there's no ‘don't,'” she said. “If I don't make it? That doesn't come into my head.”

There's pressure to stray, Gilbert said — pressure to sell drugs, to hustle easy money, to break the law.

She doesn't want to cave to that. She has bigger plans.

“I'm talking about how life is meant to be lived,” she said. “If you feel that's living, then you're going to suffer the consequences.”

Academies offer specialty education

Gilbert sat in the back of the band hall, scribbling notes as event planner Candice Henderson doled out advice to the academy students during a guest lecture.

“If they want the sun, the moon and the stars, and they can only afford the sun, you have to tell them,” Henderson said.

When Henderson said she brought business cards, dozens of hands went up.

These are the kinds of people Gilbert said she loves to hear from.

Her classes are challenging and interesting. For example, her computer class focuses on career knowledge, like using programs for budgeting.

“It's a lot of work,” she said, “but it's worth it.”