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Girls & Boys Prep brings out the best

by Jesse Muhammad
African-AmericanNews&Issues      

 


Ten years ago, the world witnessed nearly two million Black men fill the streets of the Washington Mall for the historic Million Man March. That event inspired men to take responsibility, 1.7 million registered to vote, 25,000 orphans were adopted and many opened successful businesses in their neighborhood. That march is one of the reasons why the city of Houston has Girls & Boys Preparatory Academy.
“There is a possibility we would not be around without what took place in 1995 in Washington, DC,” said Superintendent Carroll Salley.
Receiving its charter in 1995, Girls & Boys Prep is one of the oldest charters in the State of Texas. It was among the first generation of charters granted by the state, which included 19 other schools. But, out of that original group, only 7 are still open. Salley and others struggled in the early developments of the school before becoming the successful entity that stands today.
Salley worked for the Houston Independent School District for 17 years. She didn’t like the way the children were being labeled and treated and recognized they had gifts that were not being cultivated and that many of the teachers could not relate to Black youth. She resigned from her position with HISD to start a journey towards developing an institution to help change the educational paradigm of the school system. Many doubted she would be given the charter and others worked against her team as they applied with the state. Once the charter was granted, the early committed staff made sacrifices by working before money started flowing in. They suffered personal instability and once the state granted the funds, the salary was low. But, with persistence and sincere love for students, things began to evolve into a formula of success that has parents running to enroll their child.
What will one find at the Girls & Boys Prep? With nearly 1,000 children enrolled in the two southwest Houston campuses, there is plenty of excitement everyday. At the elementary campus, which is headed by Principal Vonda Oliver, many will see well-mannered students walking the halls with bright smiles. The classrooms are phenomenally decorated with educational curriculums and TAKS objectives.
This year, the campus added a classical school to give the children more exposure to Mozart, Beethoven, and to teach them different cultures on a monthly basis. If Japan is the focus, the students learn parts of their language while analyzing the geographical history of Japan. By the time students reach the fifth grade they are taught basic web designing, learn the art of reading music, develop dancing skills, become avid readers of TIME and National Geographic magazine, and engage in pre-SAT courses which is usually given on the high school level for most schools. The classroom professors such as Teacher of the Year Sherry Norwood, bring energy to the classroom to keep students excited about learning.
“You have to be animated with the students. You have to bring something from the outside that they relate to,” she said as her student danced while spelling out the words of day.
All students are dressed in uniforms to put them in the business mindset, and college preparedness is the focal point for the middle and high school campus. Students are given a challenging curriculum and active class participation is encouraged from everyone. They also enjoy a dance class, which is working on a hip-hop version of the story Cinderella, and a jazz dance performance. The high school debate team is a reigning champion and seniors are required to secure admission into a college or university, which makes parents happy. “Our school is sought out by parents, because they want their children to have more,” said Salley. Every instructor must find that child’s gift and save that child. There are no boundaries and we see much more success ahead.” Senior trips in the past have included, visits to Mexico, Jamaica and extravagant cruises. This year the superintendent and her husband, Lateef, diligently worked to load buses with students and parents for the 10th Anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington, Oct. 14 to 16. Lateef Salley serves on the Houston Local Organizing Committee of the Millions More Movement and the school is a national con-convener, as they both desire for the students to witness that history. Call 713.270.5994 or log on www.gbpa.pvt.esc4.net for more information on enrollment.