Find out why these 3 families are looking forward to Magic City Acceptance Academy’s first year


Magic City Acceptance Academy
Love those purple stripes. Photo via Bham Now

On August 31, 2021, Magic City Acceptance Academy opens its doors to students from across the Greater Birmingham Area. This tuition-free public charter school is the first of its kind in the country. Find out why these three local families chose this school for their students and why they can’t wait for school to get started.

But first, a bit about Magic City Acceptance Academy

MCAA excellence
Founding principal Dr. Mike Wilson, STEM Director Trevor Hauenstein and MCAA students at Homewood Park. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

Imagine a school for middle and high schoolers where everyone belongs. Now imagine top-notch educators, and an affirming, welcoming, learning and creativity-focused culture. This is just a part of the big, bold vision West Homewood-based Magic City Acceptance Academy has for its future. Find out why these three MCAA families chose this school.

Meet 3 families who are really looking forward to the start of this school year

families at MCAA
Families at MCAA. Photo via Bham Now
  • Jennifer Mann Grissom + daughter Cal: If you’ve ever had lunch at The Altamont School, you may have met Jennifer in the lunchroom, which she’s been running since 1998. Cal will be entering Magic City Acceptance Academy’s 11th grade class.
  • Ansley Cooley, son Lucas + daughter Delilah: Ansley Cooley, a nurse, is the mom of three children, aged 13, 15 and 18. While the oldest will be staying in Hoover to finish out his senior year, the two youngest, Lucas and Delilah, are heading into 10th and 8th grades at Magic City Acceptance Academy.
  • April Attical + daughter Rachael: April Attical is a single mom to daughter Rachael, who’s going into 6th grade, and a three-year old son. She works at an outpatient mental health facility. 

Bham Now: what led you to choose Magic City Acceptance Academy for your family?

Cooley family
Ansley Cooley with son Lucas and daughter Delilah. Photo via Bham Now

Grissom: COVID totally upended everything for Cal. Online learning did not work for her, so she took an early gap year. 

Now that she’s getting to know a lot of the kids at MCAA through a Discord server, she said “Mom, I really want to have two full years with these people. I want to experience all the things that I was gonna miss.”

Without the Acceptance Academy, it’s likely that she would not have gone back to school at all.

Cooley: While Lucas, my 15-year old, had done well in school, he almost flunked out when he was doing virtual school because he’d rather play video games. 

For years, I’ve had discussions with him about how he feels like people talk at him in class and it’s not relevant to his life.

Delilah, who’s 13, is very independent, self-sufficient and a go-getter, decided she wanted to go to MCAA as soon as she heard about it.

Attical: I wanted to choose a school that was very inclusive for Rachael. After five years in a private school, she wanted to go to public school. It wasn’t a good transition for her, and she was bullied every day. In the midst of all that, we discovered that she has autism. 

I never want her to experience that kind of bullying again, so I started looking at other options for when she finished 5th grade. 

Magic City Acceptance Academy is still accepting 6th-12th grade students for the 2021-22 academic year, which begins August 31—they’ll still be accepting students after school begins. Apply now.

Bham Now: how did you first hear about Magic City Acceptance Academy? 

April and Rachael Attical
April + Rachael Attical. Photo via Bham Now.

Grissom: At the Magic City Acceptance Center.

Cooley: I saw an article a couple of months ago about the school and thought this sounds so awesome. I cannot believe this is in Birmingham, Alabama.

Then I saw Bham Now’s theatre piece in July. Two of our kids had been involved at Red Mountain Theatre for years. 

Because of that, I knew Jim [Gibbs, the Director of Fine Arts, who used to work at Red Mountain Theatre], and decided to look into it again.

I sent that article to Delilah, and the next thing I know, five minutes later, she said “I signed up.”

She told Lucas about it and he said “well, you know, I might like that too.”

Attical: My best friend told me about a new charter school that opened up that might be a good fit. I started following them on Facebook.  

Bham Now: what was the application process like?

Grissom: We just applied and then within 24-48 hours, Cal had a seat. The school was immediately accepting and welcoming. 

Cooley: Delilah applied herself, and we found out she got a spot. 

When Lucas said he might be interested, we decided to snag a spot for him, then investigate, because we couldn’t have him doing the same thing he did last year. 

So I reached out to set up a meeting, which I thought was going to be with one person. When we walked in, there were six people in the room.

Dr. Wilson was out of town, but Charity Jackson, the Chief Academic Officer was there, along with the Vice Principal, the Secretary, the Counselor and the head of STEM. 

They pulled my kids into the conversation, then told us about the school. Everybody’s so excited, yet chillax—you could palpate the excitement in that room. 

I knew before we left that that was it—this was the place for them. I was like oh my gosh yes, this is where we want to be.

Attical: When MCAA announced that they were doing the lottery, I signed her up the same day. A week or two later, I received the email saying they had a seat available for her. 

Bham Now: as a parent, what are you most excited about as you become one of the MCAA families? 

Jennifer + Cal Grissom
Jennifer and Cal Grissom. Photo via Bham Now

Grissom: seeing my kid happy and confident and successful. That’s something that has always been lurking under the surface, and I think this place is going to bring it out in her. 

Also, selfishly, joining this supportive group of parents is going to be fantastic. 

Cooley: when we walked out of that meeting, everybody was on the same page. My husband was excited and my kids were excited about it. 

The library, the classes and how they’re set up, STEM and the extracurriculars.

Attical: I’m excited about the smaller classrooms. I was also very excited to hear about them having accommodations for people with autism—especially the sensory room, so if she does become overwhelmed, or she needs a break, she has somewhere to go. 

We have gone to a couple of events, and I have been able to meet other parents and students and it seems like it’ll be a good fit. We’ve met a lot of students just like her who are socially isolated 

It’s good to be able to relate to a lot of the parents and other students that are going to go there. The teachers seem like they’re going to be very diverse and open and accommodating. 

Magic City Acceptance Academy is still accepting 6-12 grade students. School starts August 31. Register now.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

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

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