A Brief History of American Leadership Academy(ALA)
ALA was founded in Arizona in the summer of 2009. We took over an existing charter school by the name of Eagles Aires, which was a small agriculturally-based charter school located in Gilbert, AZ. Within weeks of assuming control of the school, ALA increased student enrollment from 180 to nearly 500 students.
Following the pattern established in those first few weeks, ALA continues to grow more each year. In 2010, ALA moved its high school students to a separate campus located in Queen Creek and expanded its high school enrollment. In 2011, ALA again expanded its high school enrollment and added a second K-8 campus in the San Tan Valley.
We see our rapid growth as the natural outcome of providing an educational experience that parents desire for their children. ALA differentiates itself from other schools by focusing on leadership, a skill set that many students lack in today’s society.
To help develop leadership skills in it students, ALA utilizes the Leader in Me program developed by Stephen R. Covey. This program seeks to instill leadership in students by exposing them to the world famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. These principles have been preached in the business arena for over two decades and have been proven to successfully help individuals develop genuine leadership capacity.
In 2012, ALA Gilbert became the 23rd school in the world to be recognized as a Leader in Me Lighthouse School. With over 700 schools currently using the program, this is a big honor for the organization. As a Lighthouse School, ALA Gilbert stands as an example to schools around the world on how to effectively instill leadership skills in students.
ALA has also worked with AdvancEd (NCA CASI) to become accredited in grades 9-12. Full accreditation status was granted in 2011 permitting high school students to transfer between schools and to college without loss of credits.
During the 2012-13 school year, American Leadership Academy once again expanded with the addition of a new campus in Mesa, AZ and a new K-12 Campus in Queen Creek, AZ. At the conclusion of that school year all four elementary campus, including the two new K-6 campuses, received an “A” rating from the Arizona Department of Education.
For the 2014-15 school year, American Leadership Academy will once again expand its footprint with the addition of a new campus near the Anthem community in Florence, AZ. We look forward to the opportunity to work with more students and to continue to expand our vision of developing leadership through education and service.
How We Got Started
As many of the best things in life do, American Leadership Academy began with a passionate mother. Shelina Way is a dedicated mother of five boys and two girls. Throughout the schooling of her oldest son, Shelina strived to be an active participant in the education of her son. This drive led her to serve in several capacities on the school’s PTA, including President. What Shelina found, however, is that as her son got older, the school seemed to push her out more and more. As her son entered middle school, it became clear that her input was no longer desired at her son’s school. The message she got was; “Don’t worry about a thing, we are professionals. Just leave your son’s education in our hands.”
Knowing that middle school is an important formative time in a child’s life, Shelina did not want to relinquish such an important responsibility such as education to people she barely knew. She was unwilling to just walk away when her son needed her most.
During this time Shelina’s husband, Glenn Way, was serving on the Utah State Legislature. The legislature had been working on Charter School law and the idea intrigued him. Confronted with Shelina’s frustration with the public school system, Glenn proposed what seemed a simple solution: let’s open a charter school.
From that seed was born American Leadership Academy. To this day, ALA holds at its core the firm belief that the education of children is the sacred responsibility of parents and that educational institutions are merely partners with parents in the fulfillment of this duty. This is why ALA not only encourages parental participation, but demands it through a 40 hour service requirement for all ALA student families.