Preparing for High School & Beyond

Middle school is a powerful transition for young people. Moving from a more dependent to independent relationship with parents and teachers creates a ripe opportunity for great thinking development. The anticipation of a new school, new people, and challenging academics requires extra patience, grace, and intelligent thinking skills. At Almond Acres Charter Academy, we ease this transition from middle school to high school with attention to leadership and character development built into our child centered education. We have your child’s future in mind from the minute they step through the door at Almond Acres. Beginning in kindergarten, we target students’ strengths and areas of improvement by affirming all the ways they are smart and stretching them into the best version of themselves. Our intentionally small school helps build strong relationships, giving students a solid foundation from which to grow into the capable and competent people they are.

Five Almond Acres 8th graders leaning against a wall

“Pathways” Leadership Skills Classes 

With guidance from our executive director, we help middle school students prepare for adult life by developing the thinking skills and habits of mind necessary for success. Each of the three grade levels, 6th, 7th & 8th, examine essential skills and habits that will help them navigate life after AACA. 

In 6th grade, students take a deeper dive into the school-wide study of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. These habits help to keep us focused on dreams, positive relationships, and skills for life long after our school years. In our 7th grade leadership class, students hone in on these same skills with more advanced reading: The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make A Guide for Teens: Updated for the Digital Age by Sean Covey. This study examines the critical decisions made during the adolescent years that can make or break happiness and success in life. Self-worth, Parents, Friends, College/Career, Dating, and Extracurricular Activities are examined using the AACA decision making model.

Almond Acres volleyball team stands in a circle in the middle of the new gymnasium

8th graders jump into one of our favorite books: The Middle School Student’s Guide to Academic Success: 12 Conversations for College and Career Readiness by Carissa Logan. The book examines the positive conversations that adults and middle schoolers can have to plan for the future. The 12 conversations are:

  1. Goals
  2. Planning & Preparation
  3. Time Management
  4. Grade Point Average (GPA)
  5. Extra- & Co-Curricular Activities
  6. Service
  7. College Entrance Exams
  8. Internships & Work Experience
  9. Money Management & Scholarships
  10. College Application Process
  11. Interviewing
  12. Share Your Experience

We also incorporate lessons designed around essential skills such as healthy keys to communication, smart decision-making, and effective study skills. Our community partners provide ample opportunity to strengthen social skills through field trips, service projects, clubs and sports. Strengthening social skills from an early age helps students deal with the stress of change as they grow, leading to resilient, confident kids, prepared to tackle what comes their way. 

8th grade promotion is bittersweet as we send our students on their way to new horizons. We know we have prepared them to spread their wings and fly and are grateful when they return to share their success with us. It’s an honor to support our students on their life’s pathway. Almond Acres Charter Academy grows great kids now and beyond 8th grade.  

About AACAAlmond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

Middle Schoolers Giving Back!

At Almond Acres Charter Academy, we grow great kids. We believe an education that addresses all aspects of a student’s life creates balanced, happy learners.  In fact, our scholastic mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. This mission is embedded in our school DNA and informs how we grow together every school day, and even when not in school together. It truly sets us apart from other K-8 learning environments.  

At Almond Acres, we grow great kids. Our middle school students are active volunteers in our community. Choosing to serve over the summer, our great kids are not given required service hours or obligatory assignments to engage in Paso Robles’s many amazing community offerings. Rather, they’re choosing to support our community during their summer break. Being good citizens is an important aspect of our AACA school model. And these middle schoolers are leading the way! 

Almond Acres Charter School and middle schoolers volunteering at Vacation Bible School

Community Service

Here’s what some of our middle schoolers, past and present,  have to say, in their own words about their volunteering and community service: 

“This summer I volunteered at a summer camp called Camp Good News for a week. I also have some volunteer opportunities through the Atascadero Antlers later in summer 

I really enjoy seeing how much just a few hours of my time means to people. 

AACA taught me the value of helping others and being part of the greater community.”

~Kenichi Parkhurst (graduate)

“During summer I have helped out with a V.B.S program at my church with kids my age. I got to help out with the second and third graders while teaching them about God. 

Helping others has always inspired me to be a better person so I’ve always liked helping others because it not only warms someone else’s heart but also warms mine.

I have made many new friends through these experiences and I have also created a better bond with others I wasn’t as close to.

I think AACA has inspired me to volunteer through friends because my friends usually always have some fun things going on to join. But I think AACA has mostly inspired me to not be afraid to be myself and that every mistake is a lesson to learn and I have many of those possibilities while volunteering. “

~Mia Kosharek (8th grade)

“So far this summer, I have volunteered at a vacation bible school (VBS) as a group leader. I basically helped watch the kids as they went to their different activities throughout the day. 

I also plan to volunteer at the Children’s museum this summer. I also babysit for friends of ours. 

What I enjoy most about helping others is learning from the people I help. Most of the time when I help people out it includes children and I actually learn a lot from these kids because of their point of view on things. 

AACA has inspired me in my volunteer work by always pushing me to be the best version of myself. It also inspired me because AACA has taught me to work hard and do the best that I can and to put first things first. I think by helping people I am practicing those important lessons I was taught.”

~Divy Emmons (graduate)

Six Almond Acres middles school students volunteering together

“ I love to help others and provide assistance where needed. I enjoy helping parents with their kids by babysitting because it brings me joy to hang out with younger kids. I also enjoy helping others so that they can do things that are important to them and by feeling that I impacted someone’s life positively. 

Because of the Big Buddy program at Almond Acres, where older grades have a big buddy day where they get to do crafts and hangout with the younger elementary kids, I have wanted to babysit and hangout and support younger children and their families.”

~Kai Stoltzfus (8th grade)

“I’ve never done volunteer work prior to starting school at AACA, but this summer I had the opportunity to volunteer for a vacation bible school in the community.  Students at AACA invited me to attend a weekly youth group and the youth group asked me to volunteer. 

It was a great experience. I enjoyed seeing the kids happy after a difficult year. I would be interested in more volunteering jobs in the future. I do feel AACA helped me find friends and inspired me to get more involved more than other schools I have been to. 

For example, before AACA I went to a public middle school and it was nothing like Almond Acres. When I first came here, the community was very positive. Overall, the friends I’ve made this year at AACA, changed the year for me all together and made me understand what a difference I can make by volunteering.” 

~Avery Mathews (8th grade)

“What I enjoy most about helping others is the satisfaction you get when you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.

I’ve made a bunch of new friends, it’s so much fun getting to meet new people and especially becoming buddies with the kids.

AACA has taught and inspired me to be the best version of myself and to think of others before yourself.”

~Hannah Bourgault (graduate)
school lockers in green, yellow, red, and blue

Find out more about Almond Acres Charter Academy, a tuition-free K-8 growing great kids, today! 

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres is relocating to Paso Robles. Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students in all communities, the school is currently located in San Miguel and moving to Paso Robles for the 2021-22 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

How Does Art Live On? 8th Grade Class Gift

The eighth grade class at Almond Acres is currently posing the question, “How does art live on?”  Throughout this project-based learning unit, the students have researched artists and their artwork to uncover the impact art has on our society and our souls.  

Using a project-based learning model during this educational unit is more meaningful for students.  They have incorporated science, history, art, literature, English language, technology, and math while attempting to answer the core question.  

To help answer the question, “How does art live on?” students and their families toured the Allegretto Vineyard Resort in Paso Robles.  This beautiful retreat hotel was designed with art as a focal point.  The tour was led by the site designer, Doug Ayers.  

Allegretto Hotel chairs

Every detail of the resort was constructed with the idea of bringing harmony to visitors.  The students saw collections from all over the world, with different mediums, from different eras.  From lighting fixtures to paintings, furniture, chapels, monoliths, sculptures, and water features, every piece had a story and a purpose.

We asked Charlotte Reid, Middle School ELA teacher at Almond Acres Charter Academy to share with us her insights as to what the eighth graders are creating and why — for the new AACA school in Paso Robles, opening in fall 2021. 

1. Why did you tour the Allegretto Hotel? Where did you focus your time and attention on the hotel grounds?
“Mr. B set up the tours with the owner, Doug Ayers, when he heard about our Art Unit in 8th grade. Doug Ayers has spent years traveling the world and visiting sacred places. He has also studied many different traditions of architecture and decorating, which he has used to create an aesthetically pleasing and peaceful resort. Much of the artistic pieces come from around the world (such as doors from India and a carved statue in the chapel), from the earth (many crystals and a giant slice of a redwood), and even local artists. He showed us the massive chandelier in the entry which he had commissioned – it represents the energy patterns/centers in and around the human body (also called chakras). We saw the beautiful chapel he designed to allow the sun to fall through specific windows during the solstices. The walls are specially made from ground marble or quartz which is mixed into a plaster – it is similar to plastering found in Italy and has a shimmer to it that is quite lovely. He has created several labyrinths for meditation. He has the first audio labyrinth which has different harmonious sounds that help balance energy during the walk through the labyrinth. Every small detail of this resort was intentionally created by Doug Ayers.”

Allegretto Hotel labyrinth

2. What is the goal of this family art tour? How did this time inform the 8th graders’ group project?
Originally, we would have gone on a field trip into Paso where we would have visited art around town and the art studios where students could talk with the artists themselves. However, because of Covid, we had to come up with an alternative. Mr. B arranged an art tour for families to attend that would give them some insight into different types of art, architecture, and design. Students have been researching different artists, art movements, and art forms as part of their unit which asks the question: “Does art enhance our lives?” For this unit, students will be developing a personal mission statement and then creating a piece of art which embodies this mission statement. 

Students will also use the information they have researched and learned from the Allegretto tour to create/develop a group piece of art for the new school. This will be part of their graduation/promotion from 8th grade.”

Kenichi Parkhurst, an Almond Acres 8th grader on the trip added, “It was really cool to see such a large collection and variety of art in one place. The pieces fit together so well that it was like looking at one big collage.”

3. What are the 8th graders going to build/create for the new PR school building? Can that be revealed at this time?Students have not started to design the art piece for the new school site. However, it will be in the new courtyard. “ 

Allegretto Hotel chapel

4. What else should we know about this fantastic undertaking by the ‘big kids” of AACA?
This will be their contribution to the new school as the first students who started at AACA in kindergarten and are graduating from 8th grade.” 

Because Almond Acres Charter Academy knows that learning is most impactful when creativity is involved, the eighth-grade class will use the knowledge they acquired while touring the Allegretto for an amazing project!  As their gift to future Almond Acres families, the students are helping design the atrium at the new school site in Paso Robles.  This beautiful expression of art will consist of many different features, providing a warm welcome to all who enter the school. Find out more about Almond Acres Charter Academy today! 

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres is relocating to Paso Robles. Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students in all communities, the school is currently located in San Miguel and moving to Paso Robles for the 2021-22 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

Those Who Can… Lead!

Congratulations to our eighth graders who ran for student council president of Almond Acres Middle School! We are so impressed with your articulate speeches, your leadership skills and your dedication to your school. You all bring big ideas and enthusiasm to Almond Acres and we’re thrilled to showcase you even further. 

Below are the speeches and photos of each candidate for student body president of Almond Acres Charter Academy middle school. 

boy in blue shirt

Brandon McWilliams. 

Hi, my name is Brandon McWilliams, and I am one of five people in eighth grade this year that are running for Student Body President. 

When I was in 5th grade we had the same thing.  We had an eighth-grade student body president, and it really motivated me to become a leader and do things out of my comfort zone that I know that I can do, and to do the right thing. 

I have two years of leadership experience in the Leadership program through the school, and it’s really taught me to be fair, honest, kind, open to other people’s ideas, and organized.  I would use those same traits as Student Body President.   

One of my ideas is to have a Google Form or a virtual input box where students can type in problems or suggestions for middle school that they would like to change. So, this will allow students if they think they have too much work, they can fill out the form; and, the teachers, they aren’t looking through their email, looking for a certain email that a student sent them, they can just open up that Google form and they can see, “Oh, 75% think that there’s too much work.  Or, they would like to suggest this.”  We’ll know the majority, and we can go to the staff and change it so it’s more efficient.  So, that is one of my ideas to make Almond Acres Middle School more efficient. 

So, thank you for your time, and I hope that you have a wonderful weekend. 

Girl in denim shirt

Gracie Elliot 

Good morning, everybody.  My name is Gracie Elliot.  I am running for middle school president along with Hannah, Brandon, Troy, and Lucas.  I am really looking forward to possibly being your president.  I hope you are as well.   

As you know, the junior high president position will help make decisions for everyone’s benefit and work hard to make our middle school better.  My reasoning behind running for president is making sure you have a trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, and caring representative you can all agree with. 

But I would also like to make this year fun for all of you. 

Speaking of fun, I would like to share my ideas on how to possibly make our distance learning or our upcoming hybrid experience a blast.  Especially for all the eighth graders that will be moving forward onto high school next year.  So, my first idea, which I know some of you agree on, is getting to interact with the younger students throughout the school.  We have done it before and I think we should be able to do it again. 

For instance, little buddies.  I do know that the sixth graders are doing something similar with Ms. Reid, but we could easily include all of middle school.  So, if I am elected to represent our middle school, I will happily work my hardest for us to have something like that again. 

Also, I do know, and you should too, that if I become the president I will try to encourage clubs, more interactive activities that won’t interfere with our schoolwork.  I also have ideas to include electives that will encourage students to do more with their education.  Imagine our school having virtual or COVID-safe music shows put on by our junior high.  And maybe even art shows, not just paintings, but small architectural structures, clothes, blueprints, crafts, designs, and much more put on by our very own junior high school elective system. 

We could have clubs, like debate teams, an art club, a bible study, made by us.  I have so many plans in mind, and the only way that all of this could happen is that I represent our middle school team with your help.  So, I proudly ask you to make the right decision and vote for Gracie as Middle School President. 

girl in green shirt

Hannah Bourgault

Hi, My name is Hannah Bourgault. I have been a student at AACA since it opened in 2012 when I started kindergarten. This is my third year being on the leadership team and I would like to be your middle school president and help us stay close while we are distant learning. 

You might be thinking,” Why do you want to be middle school president?” Well, I have an answer!  I want to be president because I’ve been at his school for more than 8 years and it’s done so much for me and I want to give back and give you more fun and enriching activities. 

And now you’re probably wondering why you should vote for me? Well, I have an answer for that one too! So as you already know, I want to make our school life more fun during this weird and tough time and I can only do this with your input. As your president, I will listen to your ideas and opinions. After I have your input, I will put your ideas into action. I will speak up and represent our middle school student body. 

I know how to be a leader, I am confident and respectful and I would be honored to serve as Almond Acres very first middle school president. My name is Hannah Bourgault and my mom and dad approve this message! 

boy in black shirt

Lucas Vertrees 

As many of you may already know, I am Lucas Vertrees, running for middle school president.  I am running because I  feel some things at school need to be changed, and I’m someone who can get things changed.   

Also, I think my personality fits the role because I’m not scared to speak up about things that need to be done, especially when it’s a teacher.  When a job needs to be done, I’m someone who can do that. 

If you elect me, I will strive to put more snacks of your choice into the Snack Shack, like maybe fruit snacks.  Whatever it is, you will be the one who decides. 

Another thing that I will set into motion is an electronic club that includes lots of soldering, 3D printing, and much more.  And in case you were wondering, “What’s soldering?”  It’s where you have this really hot pen and metal and you make circuit boards, and it’s pretty cool. 

And, finally, thank you all and have a nice day. 

Troy Dawson, Jr. 

Hi!  I’m Troy Dawson.  A lot of you might know me as T.J.  I’ve been to this school since I was in kindergarten in 2012. 

And as a candidate, I want to help my fellow students have a choice in what happens, and I want all of you to feel like you have a choice in what happens in your school experience.  I’m going to make your voice heard. 

I haven’t gotten much of a chance to talk to students about issues that affect us as a middle school, but one big issue I know about.  A vote for me is a vote for all.  One big issue is COVID-19.  How I want to fix COVID-19 is, I want to help students who don’t have WiFi, or students who would much rather have more hands-on work and activities by giving them more hands-on, physical work rather than online work in all subjects.  I want to create a sign-up sheet for physical work. 

A vote for me is a vote for all. 

Cheers to these amazing kids. Such courage, grace and wisdom! And now, a video interview with our newly elected student council president… Hannah Bourgault!

About Almond Acres: 

Almond Acres is moving to Paso Robles. Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students in all communities, the school is currently located in San Miguel and moving to Paso Robles for the 2021-22 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

A Unique Middle School?

What does it mean to be unique these days? What is a unique school? How are public schools different from each other — nevermind truly unique?  How do kids recognize when they are in a special, one of a kind environment for learning? 

Let’s focus on middle school. Middle school is often a very challenging time in education and schools. Not always the favored age or stage to teach, middle schoolers can get overlooked for quality, intentional, gratifying educational experiences. Elementary schools are full of earnest, cute, malleable young kids. High schoolers can debate, advocate, and conceptualize really large ideas, concepts and realities. But what about those kids — in the middle? 

students with hands in air

What if there was a middle school that truly embraced sixth to eighth graders as current AND future leaders, ideators, problem-solvers, and independent contributors to their schools? What if the students, teachers and parents actually love their middle school? What if it’s possible to attend a middle school that is a positive environment for growth and development as a tween and early teen? 

It’s possible. It’s here. And rather than have us tell you about us, let’s hear it from an AACA middle school teacher. And some parents. And a couple of our middle schoolers themselves. Let’s read their description of their realities as to why they think AACA middle school is the real deal in middle schools — unique. 

From AACA students: 

“I think AACA has such a unique middle school environment. Not only are students taught to be considerate leaders, but students are given many opportunities to show their initiative skills. Leadership and citizenship is exceedingly highlighted. And most of all Almond Acres stretches and educates students as a whole child: heart, mind, body, and soul. Growing Great kids day-after-day!” 

“AACA Middle School is unique because everybody is free to be themselves, it is a great community to be in because everybody knows each other and everyone there is very welcoming. Middle school students also get to be in our Leadership program and get to vote for a Middle School President.”

“We are taught more than academics and we are also taught the seven habits of highly effective teens. “

“The Middle School Leadership Team is unique because it comes up with the BEST ideas for activities. It’s really fun and creative and so hands-on, even in this pandemic. When there’s a problem, they’ll solve it.” 

AACA is a very unique school because they are so encouraging and passionate about everyone.”    

three people on a beach in winter

From AACA parents:

Small classroom sizes offer a unique and individualized school day.  The teacher really knows where the student is struggling.”

“I believe that the following are what makes AACA unique: intense parent involvement, strong sense of community and shared values, an intimate, small school feel, as well as an emphasis upon the idea that education is more than about getting a good job — but about serving the community around us and forming the whole personbody, soul, mind and heart.” 

And from an ACCA teacher: 

“AACA Middle School is like a family – it is small and all the students know one another. Teachers are able to give more attention to individual students because the class sizes are smaller. The philosophy of Heart, Mind, Body, Soul is very unique for a school as it promotes teaching students foremost and curriculum follows. When we take the well-being of every student into consideration, it makes it much easier for students to focus and learn the curriculum.” 

About Almond Acres: 

Almond Acres is moving to Paso Robles. Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students in all communities, the school is currently located in San Miguel and moving to Paso Robles for the 2021-22 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

In the MIDDLE of the Action! Almond Acres Middle School

“Because of the programs at our school, like Destination Imagination, Leadership, Project-based learning and Theater, my daughter is thriving — not just surviving — in middle school! Her confidence has grown, she has outstanding grades, and her character is strong.”

Almond Acres Charter Academy parent

Learning is a collaborative process. At Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA), the education of our students is built on having a strong and inspiring support system in place. We deliver our high-quality service and project-based curriculum via our dedicated and experienced teachers and our we-are-a-family, tight knit AACA community. 

We actively maintain a partnership and open communication between parents, students, teachers, and community members. This is our learning team and how we grow healthy kids. We give our students this foundation so they can feel confident in their ability to investigate their world and who they are. It sparks a desire to learn and grow, and ensures flourishing academic experiences full of opportunities and exploration. This is especially true at our middle school. 

colorful lockers

Our middle school is known for having small classes. With a 1:28 student-to-teacher ratio, our instructors truly know each sixth – eighth grade student. 

Our middle schoolers get to be leaders. They give tours to prospective families and they help every morning with our Shared Start. Our middle schoolers even create events as part of our project-based learning units. Our seventh graders created a Family Forum where families came together to discuss issues pertinent to middle schoolers while playing games in a relaxed atmosphere.  The Family Forum allowed for conversation about challenges our middle school kids are currently facing. Not only was the event well-executed, the middle school students showed tremendous maturity and willingness to both share and listen. We grow great kids! 

Family Forum sign

Our middle schoolers act as admirable role models for other kids and families. Our middle school students recently took on the responsibility of promoting literacy. Some focused on our AACA school itself by tutoring kindergarteners, giving up their own recess(!)  to work with the younger students on sight words and reading. Other middle schoolers built and stocked a tiny share library to be installed between our kindergarten and first grade classrooms. Moving beyond our school, some students built a tiny free library for their neighborhood, helped out in a childcare environment and read to children at a homeless shelter. 

boy reading

One middle school student focused on literacy around the globe – and chose Uganda to make his mark. By making and selling homemade strawberry jam, this Almond Acres middle school student raised funds to work with a local charity in Uganda and raise enough funds to provide pens, paper, and English textbooks for an entire classroom! 

Being a small school, our middle school students can access many activities and experiences. Our middle school kids can play on the volleyball team AND be in the school play. They can pursue a wide variety of scholastic and extracurricular endeavors  – and gain exposure to their talents and interests as well as natural gifts. This confidence is so valuable at this critical age! 

baseball players

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. The school is located in San Miguel and is open to all students in all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!