Meet the Magic City Acceptance Academy, a school designed to be safe for every 6-12 grade student—coming soon

Mike Wilson of Magic City Acceptance Academy
Founding Principal Dr. Mike Wilson of the Magic City Acceptance Academy. Photo via Mike Wilson

After three rejections from the Alabama Public Charter School Commission, the Magic City Acceptance Center got a 7-2 yes vote, granting them the approval they’d been seeking on November 4, 2020. This new school for students in grades 6-12 opens in Fall 2021 in Homewood, and begins accepting applications in February 2021. Keep reading to learn more about the school with acceptance as  its middle name.

What is the Magic City Acceptance Academy?

MCAA approved
The Magic City Acceptance Academy has been approved. Graphic via Birmingham AIDS Outreach’s Facebook page

It’s one of the first schools in the entire country—and the first in the state of Alabama—designed to create an LGBTQ affirming environment where all students, no matter who or how they love or identify, can get top-notch, trauma-informed instruction. 

Because let’s face it, middle and high school can be rough, whether it’s because of who you are or because of challenges happening in your life outside the classroom. 

To be clear, it’s not just for LGBTQ students. It grew out of a need that the Magic City Acceptance Center saw for these kids, who often face bullying, violence and greater risk of suicide. 

Applying for the Magic City Acceptance Academy's charter
Dr. Mike Wilson + CeCe Lacey submitting the first charter school application. Photo via Birmingham AIDS Outreach’s Facebook page

Since he was hired in December 2019, Dr. Mike Wilson, Founding Principal of the Magic City Acceptance Academy, has been working diligently with Birmingham AIDS Outreach and the Magic City Acceptance Center to create the school that grew out of that early vision.

Who can apply? Anyone who has an interest in being a part of this inclusive community

Magic City Acceptance Center
Amanda Keller + Lauren Jacobs of the Magic City Acceptance Center with Start Talking Alabama and the Alabama Department of Public Health on creating inclusive spaces for the LGBTQ community. Photo via Birmingham AIDS Outreach’s Facebook page
  • Rising 6th-12th graders
  • LGBTQ students 
  • Any student who is not having success in their current school
  • Any student who would benefit from trauma-informed instruction to help them with challenges they’re facing beyond the classroom
  • No geographic restrictions  

Applications will open in February 2021. Visit BAO’s website to find the application closer to time.  All interested applicants will be placed in a lottery and a third party will administer the pulling of random names from the “fishbowl,” according to Wilson. 

According to the Guidelines for Alabama Public Charter Schools, “A public charter school cannot limit student admission based on ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, income level, disability, proficiency in the English language, or academic or athletic ability.” 

Why is the Magic City Acceptance Academy a big deal?

BAO, MCAA and MCWC in the community
Birmingham AIDS Outreach, Magic City Acceptance Academy and the Magic City Wellness Center with Mabel the Mobile Testing Unit at a World AIDS Day event in Linn Park pre-COVID. Photo via Birmingham AIDS Outreach’s Facebook page

In addition to being possibly the first school in the country to have the words “LGBTQ-affirming” in its mission, according to Wilson, this is the first school of its kind in Alabama. 

“We are most likely one of the only schools in the nation to have the statement that we are LGBTQ affirming in our Mission Statement. Our vision is to provide a much needed space that is inclusive and welcoming to all students where we teach with trauma informed practice at the forefront and where we offer individual learning paths for our students. We believe in integrating social and restorative justice themes and values in everything we do.”

Personal responses to the Magic City Acceptance Academy

To find out what this means, I reached out to some people in the community. Here’s what they said: 

“All young people deserve to thrive and have access to healthy and secure learning environments. As an LGBTQ person and new Homewood resident, I’m thrilled to know MCAA will be that place of learning and thriving for young people across our communities. And, as a foster parent, I can’t say enough how important MCAA’s trauma-informed approach to education will be for the well-being and academic success of young people who might struggle in more traditional learning environments.” 

Eva W. Kendrick
confetti at a graduation
The purpose of school is to learn. Photo via Unsplash

“I so much wish that some sort of space like this would have been available back in my day. We had nothing when I graduated from high school in 1971. 

Like all of us did back then, you tried to be somebody on the outside but knew you were somebody different on the inside. Counseling wasn’t available. You didn’t dare tell anybody in your family. 

It is really exciting that we are opening this inclusive place for a variety of kids that are having problems in their lives. Emotional trauma is not always visible because people keep it inside. 

We’re giving kids an outlet to express their feelings about how  they may be experiencing some kind of trauma or abuse.  Maybe their parents are separated, or there’s domestic abuse in the house. On the outside, the student seems to be okay. On the inside, they’re torn apart. 

Usually that comes to the surface at some other point in their lives. We have an opportunity to deal with it immediately when we know about it. It’s pretty amazing that we’re gonna open this school with complete wraparound services for kids and for our families. 

On the other side, as a principal for 20-something years and working in the school system for 28 years, people in schools see the effects of trauma every day. We see kids who are very capable of learning, but due to their emotional and behavioral issues, they are acting out and learning takes a back seat. Hopefully, we’re able to intervene on the front end at school so that learning can still take place as they deal with anxiety and or other issues in their lives.”

Dr. Mike Wilson

Want to learn more about the Magic City Acceptance Academy? Follow them on Birmingham AIDS Outreach’s website, on Facebook or on Instagram.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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