News Releases

Updated: Jan 7

Sunrise Academy was recognized by the Orlando Sentinel for its commitment to inclusivity.

Sunrise Academy was honored to be recognized by the Orlando Sentinel in a piece that highlighted the many schools that discriminate against LGBTQ+ students in Florida. Sunrise Academy is committed to equal opportunity for all.

While schools cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin, there is no law that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Employees at Sunrise Academy in Orange City received the training about three weeks ago, Upper School Principal Levi Connolly said."

"The secular academy serves several LGBTQ students, and Connolly said he wanted his staff to have a better understanding of the challenges they might face because school is often the first place gay and transgender children come out."

“All students' lives are equally valuable, and we want our students to have an equal start,” he said.

You can read the Orlando Sentinel article in full here.


Updated: Jan 7

Sunrise Academy has partnered with Equality Florida to become Florida's first private school to receive its Safe and Healthy Schools training.

Equality Florida (EQFL), the state’s leading LGBTQ rights organization, has joined forces with Step Up For Students, the state’s largest K-12 scholarship organization, to bring LGBTQ awareness training to private schools wishing to participate.

The goal is for Equality Florida to expand a current public school-based LGBTQ training program to private schools with scholarship students. Step Up has raised $1 million privately to seed the endeavor.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us,” says Equality Florida chief executive officer Nadine Smith. “Any time we can step inside any school to offer help to students, we want to be there. The bottom line is that every student should feel safe, no matter whether the school is public or private.”

Sunrise Academy was the first scholarship private school to receive Equality Florida’s training in September.

“Sunrise Academy is excited to join the partnership and be the first private school to participate in Equality Florida’s Safe School program,” says Sunrise Academy Lower School Principal Shellnisha Franklin. “We as educators must strive to create a safe space where all students feel valued and empowered to be their authentic self.”

Levi Connolly, Upper School Principal remarked that "we are all at different places in our lives and we must remember our perspective is not the same as our students. All of our student’s lives are equally valuable, and we want all our students to have an equal start."

The stakes are high. In the most recent state survey, 18 percent of Florida high school students either identified as LGB or said they are unsure, and another 1.5 percent reported they are transgender. These students attempt suicide at four times the rate of their non-LGBT classmates. The Center For Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey also highlights increased likelihood of LGB children to experience bullying and violence – resulting in higher absenteeism and poorer school performance.

In 2020, Sunrise Academy became the first school in the United States to receive Peace Mala accreditation, an organization dedicated to tackling bullying and prejudices in all walks of life.

Sunrise Academy is dedicated to supporting students from all walks of life and we are excited to partner with Equality Florida to build upon our atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance.


Lower School Principal Shellnisha Franklin:

Upper School Principal Levi Connolly:


Sunrise Academy is excited to announce that as a result of strong growth, we are splitting our K-12 division into two schools to better serve our students.

Lower School Principal, Shellnisha Franklin

Sunrise Academy has had strong growth during the 2019-2020 school year and is now entering the next stage of its journey.

In order to better serve its students, the K-12 school will be split into two schools: the Lower School (Elementary), and the Upper School (Middle & High).

The Lower School will be led by Principal Shellnisha Franklin who is assisted by academic Dean, Halley Whitten-Connolly ("Mrs. Whitten").

The Upper School will be led by Principal Levi Whitten-Connolly ("Mr. Connolly") who is assisted by academic Dean, Stephanie Conway.

Upper School Principal, Levi Whitten-Connolly

Prior to coming to Sunrise Academy, Ms. Franklin worked in private and public schools, while Mr. Connolly worked in the public school system and higher education.

For parents and students, existing procedures, such pick-up, and school start and end times will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Both schools will continue to work together and operate under the Sunrise Academy brand.

Sunrise Academy will continue to provide an innovative, 21st century education that makes our school the private school of choice in Volusia County.


Lower School Principal Shellnisha Franklin:

Upper School Principal Levi Connolly: