The On Track Academy website describes the program as one designed for students who want real-world education and the opportunity to show what they know and what they can do. Whoever wrote that couldn’t have characterized On Track senior Darion Isaacs more accurately.
A year ago, Isaacs was a junior at Shadle Park High School, where he’d spent two years after transferring from Lewis and Clark. He was vaguely discontented, starting to fall behind in credits and certain that he needed something different to be successful.
What he found at On Track was a program that offers the individual attention he needed and an opportunity to catch up and thrive in the classroom and community.
He has overcome numerous obstacles on the way to his diploma, including an unsettled domestic situation and especially the death in December of a beloved grandparent.
“Darion’s one of those kids who never misses school,” said his primary On Track teacher, Chris Burke. “He’s very dependable and involved in a number of different activities here. When he came here, it wasn’t so much that he was behind, he just wasn’t engaged in his education.”
Isaacs believes that the driving force behind his success is his willingness to help.
“I’ll always lend a helping hand to someone who needs it,” he said. “I’m not really a risk-taker except when I see a greater good to be performed. Even if I have something important to do, I’ll offer my help to whoever asks for it.”
He intends to enroll at Spokane Community College next fall in the automotive technology program and hopes eventually to open his own business. But he also sees himself looking for projects that will contribute to the community.
Like Project HOPE, a community-based effort to provide the means for disadvantaged kids to improve their lives through entrepreneurial initiatives. Each summer, 25 to 30 young people are hired to work in a small garden with five lots, giving them job experience and keeping them off the streets and out of trouble.
Isaacs started with the program in 2011 as an employee but ascended almost immediately to a supervisor position and is now on the board of directors.
This school year, he also won a gold medal in public speaking at the Washington Jobs for America’s Graduates conference in Olympia and was selected to participate in the Hillyard Village Project, partnering with Washington State University seniors to design an off-grid living and food production community. Burke is the On Track adviser for that endeavor.
Isaacs is also part of an On Track volunteer project, working with Bemis Elementary students as a mentor.
While he doesn’t see what he does as anything special, Burke offers a different opinion: “He’s goal-oriented, hard-working and willing to try new things. But what really sets him apart is how sincere he is, and how much he cares about others.”