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A tuition-free school opening in Liberty City

Beacon College Prep enrolling students for next school year

Ashley Montgomery | 4/10/2014, 9 a.m.

By 2020, an estimated 123 million American jobs will require a college education, but only 50 million Americans are projected to have college degrees.

Beacon College Prep (BCP) is preparing to put college on the forefront for the youth in Miami-Dade County.

The tuition-free, not-for-profit public charter school will be opening in the Liberty City community in August.

“We believe that preparation for college must begin in elementary school, and hold all of our students to exceptionally high behavioral and academic standards,” their mission states.

Patrick Evans, founding school leader, is a 27-year-old man on a mission. A Minneapolis native, Evans graduated from the University of Minnesota where he double-majored in African-American Studies and Finance. In 2009, upon graduation, Evans began working for Teach For America, a rising group of college graduates and experienced professionals who teach in low-come neighborhoods. They also serve as role models for youths struggling to achieve an excellent education.

“I always wanted to serve a Black community wherever I was,” Evans said. “I found that Miami has a thriving Black community and it was something that I wanted to be involved in,” Evans said.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS

Evans is working on finding a location for the school, but is optimistic.

“We are still looking for a location,” Evans said. “We are working with the District — the plan is that we want to co-locate with the District in our first year of operation because we want to build from the ground up.

We really believe in collaborating with the community and we want to be able to learn from them and for them to be able to learn from us.”

Beacon College Prep has begun accepting application for incoming kindergarten, first and second grade student for the 2014-15 school year.

Applications involve a non-selective process and asks general questions that inform the staff about the prospective student. The application will remain open until May 16, 2014.

Evans says that the school is starting with 200 students and a small staff to build a solid core of teachers who will likely last a long time. Evans said the size makes it easier to attain sustainable funds from the state.

“By the time we reach year two or three we want to be able to sustain our school on public funds alone,” Evans said.

Evans is modeling the curriculum on similar, successful charter schools up north, including the Harlem Children’s Zone founded by Geoffey Canada.

“We want a culture that will have our students and staff to feel empowered,” Evans said. “I want them to know that they are the drivers of their future. Next school year (’15-’16), we plan to expand by accepting another kindergarten class and growing from there.”

COLLEGE STARTS IN KINDEGARTEN

There has been major studies in the United States that show the academic gaps between Blacks and other races widening. For example, Florida has now set academic performance goals that will be graded on a curve, with targets related to race and income. Florida’s Board of Education expects 86 percent of white students at or above grade level in math, but for Black students the goal is lower at 74 percent.