First all-boys, faith-based school coming to city

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In August 2013, the city’s first all-boys faith-based K-12 school, Destiny Leadership Academy, will open its doors in the East End. The new school, to be housed in the former Lemington Elementary building, will be headed by Pastors Michael Smith and Donna Smith of Destiny International Ministries.

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Pastors Michael and Donna Smith
(Courier Photos/J.L. Martello)

“I know what the power of a faith based education can do. As an educator for 19 years, having been on both sides, I just want to give children the chance I didn’t have,” Michael Smith said. “Statistics show when you have single gender schools they work better, so our mindset was in order to educate at the level we believe these students should be educated, we have to have a single gender school.”

Smith’s vision for the new school comes from nearly two decades of experience as an educator, extensive research on successful inner-city school and his current studies in pursuit of a doctoral degree in education. He said his school would mirror similar programs like Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone and Marva Collins’ now closed Westside Preparatory School in Chicago.

“What we’re doing has been done in other cities. There are educators throughout this country who understand, our children—if you provide excellent caring teachers, if you provide the environment, if you provide encouragement—our children have the potential,” he said. “When you see that 40 percent aren’t graduating high school, that has nothing to do with us being unintelligent; it has to do with a system that is failing our students. The reason our children are failing is because of low expectations.”

Starting in kindergarten, students will be versed in philosophy, Shakespeare and African-American history. The classes will follow the looping model where teachers stay with groups of students for several grade levels. The school will also feature small class sizes of no more than 15 students in order to ensure teachers are able to make the greatest impact.

“The goal we have at our school is that a kindergarten student will be able to read at a first, second, or even third grade level. Some of the courses we’ll be offering most students would never take at a public school,” Smith said. “Our philosophy is if you push a child and inspire him while asking for more than he’s ever given, that child has the capacity. A great educator can draw out the genius.”

The cost of tuition will be $4000 per year or $400 per month, but Destiny parents will have more than a monetary commitment. Parents will also play a key role in their children’s education and will have to undergo an interview as part of the application process.

“One of the things we’ve found out through personal experience and research is many children struggle from a lack of parental support. (Parents will) have to sign a covenant promising to work with their children,” Smith said. “We’re going to be giving them high level course work at a young age that can only be completed with the help of a parent at home.”

For more information on Destiny International Ministries, visit http://www.destinyinternational.info. For information on applying to the academy call 412-362-5222.

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