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. ...

Unlike traditional boarding schools, SEED is free of charge for students and its funding stems from a partnership between community leaders, private philanthropy and goverment. Through a contract, each SEED student receives thousands of dollars from Miami-Dade Schools and an additional $25,000 per student from the Florida Department of Education.

A firsthand experience

Garrni Baker attended SEED School in Washington, D.C.for seven years. Within his enrollment, the self-proclaimed “mama’s boy” matured into an “independent” young man.

“Once I started to get the hang of SEED, I was able to rely on myself to get things done,” he said. “This then helped me at home because I no longer required my mom to do everything. SEED helped me mature.”

For Baker, SEED helped him develop academically and personally.

So much, that he finds it difficult to envision himself on the path to college without the assistance of SEED.

“It’s hard to imagine a different path because SEED was such a big part of me growing up,” said Baker. “I know that with SEED I can say I am a college graduate and that I’m going to be successful. SEED helped me realize my flaws academically and how I can work on them. I have lifelong friends from SEED. [...] I would definitely recommend SEED.”

Will we embrace it?

The biggest challenge SEED faces thus far is a lack of enrollment, as their recruiting efforts have yielded few applicants.

Recruiters must move in 30 sixth-grade boys and 30 girls into the school’s renovated dorms by August for their grand-opening. Annually, the school will add a new group of sixth graders and is scheduled to graduate its first class of seniors in 2021.

Local organizations like Our Kids of Miami-Dade and Monroe, Educate Tomorrow and Overtown Youth Center are aiding SEED in attracting prospective students.

An underlying factor to their small enrollment numbers is the Black community’s tight-knit family relationships, a quality that leaves many parents apprehensive about sending their underage children to a boarding school.

Current head of school, Kara Locke with SEED D.C. graduate Garrni Baker.

Current head of school, Kara Locke with SEED D.C. graduate Garrni Baker.

“As an African-American, I know first-hand the extremely close-knit relationships within many African-American families and the hesitance of many parents to allow their children outside of the family home for extended periods of time,” said Davis.

He continued: “It’s a cultural issue that is shared across many ethnic communities. I believe that once parents learn about SEED’s model and see the powerful successes we’ve already enjoyed in other cities, the question won’t be whether they are open to the idea [instead] the question will be how do we handle the overwhelming demand for children to enroll.”

At least 11 percent of students who enroll at SEED schools in Maryland and Washington, D.C. leave annually due to home sickness. SEED actively tackles the issue by providing counseling, holistic support and offering dedicated mental health professionals on-campus.

For an institution whose core demographic is Black students, the Board of Trustees decision to base their Florida campus in Kendall, a predominately Hispanic community seems puzzling.

“As someone who grew up in South Miami-Dade, I think it is often overlooked that the area is home to several strong African-American communities in places like Richmond Heights, Goulds and Perrine,” said Davis. “I expect that many of those families can benefit from the SEED program.”

Davis said the location was based on availability, proximity to other Black enclaves and real estate.

SEED’s first community open house will take place at the Little Haiti Cultural Center on February 17th from 5-7 pm.

For more information about SEED School call 305-600-1367 or log on to http://miami.seedschool.org