Former ACEL students graduate months after Fresno charter school closes

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's a day many Valley teens thought they wouldn't see. More than 30 former ACEL students graduated Friday afternoon -- three months after the charter high school abruptly shut its doors.

And just like that the high school chapter closed, turning a page into the future for these students -- many of whom never thought this graduation day would come.

"If you were to tell me two years ago 'you're not going to graduate from Bullard, you're going to graduate from some charter school on Shields and First,' I'd say you're crazy," Chris Farnum said.

Just a few months ago, Farnum looked a lot different. He was standing on the corner, bearded, and fighting to keep ACEL Fresno open. The charter high school abruptly shut down in March, unable to balance their financial trouble, leaving Farnum and many others scrambling to finish their education months before the end of the school year.

"So I thought I was basically dead in the water and I wasn't going to be able to graduate," Farnum said.

Most of the students found homes in various high schools around the district. About two thirds of them went to Carter G. Woodson Public Charter. Thirty-one of them finished their year out and couldn't be happier to end that dramatic phase and take a new step into the future.

"It's a great feeling just to see some of the struggles all of our students went through and just having the students intertwine with our students, and then we came as one as a unit and worked together," Activities Director Darnell Taylor said.

Taylor says what was initially a rough road turned into a smooth ride with a good outcome -- one that parents couldn't be happier to see.

"It was really thrilling for me and my wife that Christopher had another way to achieve his goal," said Brad Farnum, Chris Farnum's father.

Of those 31 former ACEL students, their futures are mixed. Some are going to college, some into the military, but all of them with that diploma they never thought they'd see.
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