When Jason Wall decided to open Young Scholars Academy, he wanted to focus on kids that everybody else had given-up on. Experienced in charter school administration, Wall and his wife decided that they needed to “put our money where our mouth was” and open a school specifically geared towards high-risk students that were struggling in public school.
“We opened Young Scholars in South Linden, Ohio which is probably the roughest area in all of Columbus,” explains Wall. “In the past six months, there have been 19 homicides within a two-mile radius of our school.”
Young Scholars started out as a very small school with only 30 students the first year. They received a Federal Startup Grant that helped them get started. As word spread about Young Scholars, the school found their enrollment nearly tripling the following year.
Despite having to staff for 80 students, Young Scholars was allotted funding based on their previous years enrollment numbers. That’s when Wall reached out to Charter School Capital.
“I truly don’t know how we would have been able to staff for that many students if it weren’t for Charter School Capital,” Wall says. “I probably would have had to come up with the money myself, or try to take some sort of outside funding that would have been far more complex and convoluted.”
Access to reliable funding has empowered Young Scholars to offer a very low teacher-to-student ratio and purchase 40 new computers for their students.
They also have adopted a unique staffing model to best serve their challenging student population; teachers are trained for months before the school term begins in order to receive in-depth training, at a considerable expense.
“A school is only as good as its teachers,” says Wall. “We’re able to have that model because we were able to get that extra cash flow from Charter School Capital.”
The school’s rigorous model, which focuses on creating individual educational “playbooks” for each student and imparting socially acceptable skills, also demands constant parental involvement and asks for rigid behavioral standards.
It’s not just educational growth that Young Scholars is tackling. Their goal is to actively engage with, and improve, their community in South Linden, including partnering with a local civic center, nearby churches, and sponsoring anti-violence events.
Wall describes the positive impact they’re having on their community. “When I pulled up the first day to hang the school sign, there were 15 gang members peddling drugs in front of the building. Since we’ve been open and having a presence in the community, they’ve taken their business elsewhere.”
Three years after opening their doors, Young Scholars has increased enrollment to 100 students. Once again they’ll be working with Charter School Capital to help finance their growth.
Fledgling Charter School Transforms Challenged Neighborhood
July 16, 2014