Built on a foundation of the three pillars of success, Academy Prep Center is achieving unprecedented results by breaking the cycle of generational poverty for middle-school aged youth living in the Tampa Bay area.
The private non-denominational school, with locations in the Midtown area of St. Petersburg and in Ybor City, has changed the lives of 204 graduates and their families since opening its doors. Academy Prep Center encourages students to follow high moral standards, adheres to a rigorous 11-month college preparatory curriculum, and offers global extra-curricular activities like chess, karate and tennis. Students and families also receive ongoing support through individualized social programs during the eight years – high school and college – following graduation.
School administrators boast a 100% graduation rate from high school for eight consecutive years.
Academy Prep Centers was founded by Jeff and Joan Fortune, who sold the TradeWinds Island Resort on St. Pete Beach to the employees in 1995. The Fortunes, with the help of retired educators Bob and Barbara Anders, developed and created a sustaining, long-term solution with innovative programs to help students in at-risk neighborhoods become future community leaders. It’s a successful educational model that school administrators hope to eventually expand to other neighborhoods, both regionally and nationally.
It’s an endeavor that costs $16,000 per student each year, funded almost entirely by donations, community advocates and volunteers. The tuition covers the cost of college preparatory academics, extra curriculars, and eight years of graduate support once students leave the campus. Students also spend more time in the classroom, a total of 936 hours per academic year, 43% more than their public school peers.
“Standing in this room are the greatest, most committed, most responsible people this world has ever known. If it is to be, it is up to me. Yes I can. Yes I will. Yes we can. Yes we will. I am, we are, the greatest, the greatest, the GREATEST!”
The selection process targets incoming fifth and sixth grade students who live below the poverty level. The school upholds high expectations built around a strict schedule which includes attending classes six days a week, 11 hours a day, 11 months a year. Each school day starts with breakfast at 7 a.m. followed by morning convocation that includes prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, personal intentions, and the Word of the Day.
Students can choose from a variety of extra-curricular activities like dance, basketball, performing arts and gardening. If students fall below a 3.0 grade point average during the year, they must attend a mandatory study hall with tutors between 5-6 p.m. Teachers also give students their personal cell numbers. Students are encouraged to contact them with any questions on homework until 9 p.m. On Saturdays, students participate in community service projects and attend field trips that supplement classroom instruction such as sporting events and museum visits.
You can see the confidence and pride on the students’ faces in their accomplishments every day.
School administrators boast a 100% graduation rate from high school for eight consecutive years, an astonishing figure given that the low-income areas typically have a graduate rate less than 48%. More than 75% of graduates receive scholarships to continue their private or boarding school education at several prestigious area schools. To ensure continued success past high school, once an Academy Prep student is accepted into college, the school provides ancillary items they may need, such as a winter coat or an iPad. Graduates often come back to Academy Prep to mentor young students and encourage their own personal journey to success through hard work, dedication and support of the school community.
Academy Prep Centers
1407 E. Columbus Drive
2301 22nd Avenue South
To learn more about Academy Prep please go to: academyprep.org