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story.lead_photo.caption Janelle Jessen/Herald-Leader Shirley Dilbeck, left, and Suellen Coleman-Chase, right, posed for a picture with Lindsey Thompson, 2018 Rodeo of the Ozarks Queen, and her horse Pretty Girl. Thompson greeted guests and posed for pictures at the Friends of Main Street Academy fundraiser on Thursday, themed "Cowboy up for Main Street Academy.

The seventh annual Main Street Academy fundraiser highlighted students and honored Principal Michele Markovich.

A total of 125 people attended the fundraiser on Thursday at the Torres Barn. The event, themed "Cowboy up for Main Street Academy," was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce adopters group -- Friends of Main Street Academy -- and included a tour of the school, dinner and a live and silent auction.

All funds raised at the benefit event go toward providing for student needs and scholarships. On Monday, the total was more than $11,000 and expected to increase as money continues to come in from local businesses, according to organizer Gina VanDyck.

Main Street Academy provides an alternative high school education for students in the Siloam Springs School District, enabling students who have faced challenges in life to earn their high school diplomas. The school gives students the tools and support they need to succeed, even though they may be working two jobs to support their family or may be parents themselves, Markovich said.

In the first nine weeks of the school year, Main Street Academy has already helped 11 students earn their graduation requirements, Markovich said. Those students are going on to join the military, go to dental assistant school, begin management training at Simmons Foods and work to save up for the future, she said.

Roxana Velasquez, a senior at Main Street Academy who spoke during the event, said she transferred to the school at one of the lowest points in her life. She was worried that she wouldn't fit in or be accepted. Now, she said she is at one of the highest points in her life -- just a few months away from graduation with straight A's for the first time since seventh grade.

"My first day there, I was welcomed with open arms, it was like being at home," Velasquez said. "I really think that every single teacher in that building has touched my heart in very many different ways. They will always make time for you no matter what they are doing. They'll stop grading papers just to talk to you about how your day is going. I have succeeded most here, more than any other school."

Royce Daniels said he has also found success at Main Street Academy. Daniels said he came to the school with a negative mindset, thinking the students were "dumb or terrible" and the teachers were insincere. Over the course of a year, he realized the school helped him get to a point where he could do his best.

"I'm just really thankful that I got to be here and that I got a second chance," he said.

"This school is amazing," said student Shealee Gabalis. "The teachers are incredible. I've never seen such motivated and understanding people in a job position. They deal with us and they handle us and they help us, and it's really incredible how much they do day-to-day. I love this school and being here for this short amount of time, I realize that the reputation it has isn't true. Ms. Michele is one of the most incredible principals I've ever had. ... I don't think I would be where I'm at if I hadn't come to this school."

Award presentation

During the evening, Shirley Dilbeck and Superintendent Ken Ramey presented Markovich with an award for her service and dedication to the school.

"Michele is not just an administrator, she is a hero, friend, confidant, their encourager, and a lot of times, Michele is (students') last chance," Dilbeck said. "She doesn't just teach, she is compassionate and determined with every ounce of her being to give them everything to make a difference in their lives. The heart that Michele has for the students of Main Street reflects her love, passion and determination for success of each student.

Ramey said that Markovich is powerful and a difference maker.

"Everything you do is with a big heart for love and care for kids," he said. "She puts so many people back on the road to success, picks them up from where they are at and loves them for who they are. We don't separate or label. This is a wonderful leader of Main Street Academy. I respect her so much and enjoy working with her. She can smile at you and the determination is coming through those eyes."

General News on 10/24/2018

Print Headline: Main Street Academy celebrates students, principal

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