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Planting the SEED

Are we ready to send our at-risk children to boarding school?

Carla St.Louis | 2/13/2014, 9 a.m.

When you think of boarding school, a few things come to mind — affluent white children, pristine uniforms and pedigree.

What does not come to mind are inner city Black youth — until now.

One institution’s solution in overcoming barriers to educational success is unheard of within the Black community--i.e., send students to boarding school.

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Jaret Davis

“An often overlooked factor that influences a child’s education is the environment the child faces outside of the classroom,” said Jaret Davis, managing shareholder at Greenberg Traurig LLP. “Crime, a lack of resources and negative peer pressure can be huge obstacles holding any child back from achieving their maximum potential. The genius of SEED is that it allows a child to focus solely on what children should be focused on – developing their minds and leadership skills.”

Hence why SEED School believes every single child with the right opportunities can succeed. According to the school’s website, each child requires a different level of academic support and others — like children who live in violence-ridden poor neighborhoods — need after school tutoring and more to combat barriers to success.

“From Sunday evening to Friday each week, these students will be removed from the impact of any negative environment,” said Davis. “Instead, they are surrounded by similarly motivated students, all working together and encouraging each other to succeed. That’s a formula for success.”

What is SEED?

SEED School is Florida’s first, non-profit charter boarding school. Located at 11025 SW 84th Street in the Kendall Cottages Complex, it is replicated from the renowned SEED School in Washington D.C. — a free preparatory school popularized in the 2010 documentary, Waiting for Superman about the American education system.

Created by Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota, the purpose of SEED is to submerge poor students in an environment that’s completely devoted to academics including prep college courses, advance placement classes and life-skills training.

Within the 24,500 square feet facility, a student’s typical day starts with an extracurricular activity followed by showering, breakfast and reading. Unlike public school, the day runs longer beginning at 8 am to 4 pm.

A student who enrolls in the sixth grade is often behind his peers educationally so his syllabus is based on remedial courses. Once he becomes a freshman, its expected that he will have caught up in class and enroll in college prep courses. By the time he graduates — a very strong possibility considering SEED boasts a 90 percent graduation rate — he’ll be ready for the demands of college.

The most pivotal opportunity SEED provides is the College Transition & Success program, which works with students to ensure they are successful in college.

On weekends, students will return home by bus while weeknights are spent in the dormitory with faculty who reside on-campus.

To qualify for admission, an applicant for SEED must be at risk of failing school, entering or repeating the sixth grade, be eligible for social services, and be in foster care or live in public housing. He must belong to a household with a gross income equal to no more than twice the federal poverty guidelines.