Fourth grader Kimberly Elliott saw a television commercial seeking donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and decided to ask some of her friends at Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls to join her in a fund-raising campaign.
“I wanted to help people,” Elliott said. “St. Jude Hospital helps over 16,000 kids a year. Some of them have cancer.”
Elliott told her classmates Mikalah Smith and Tianna Watt about St. Jude hospital.
The Tennessee-based medical center provides free services to children with catastrophic childhood diseases. It also covers food, housing, and travel expenses for the families of its patients. According to the hospital’s website, cancer treatments invented at St. Jude, which opened 50 years ago, have increased the childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent.
“Kimberly asked us to help her raise money for St. Jude Hospital, and we thought it was a great idea,” said Watt.
The three then contacted Jeannie McCree, the parent coordinator for Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls, and asked her to make the drive a school project. The girls have raised nearly $350 in donations from teachers, support staff, and parents. Scholars who participated in Spirit Week also donated $2 to support St. Jude.
Principal Sherry Miller said that she was proud of the fourth graders for launching the effort.
“At Ivy Prep, we teach our scholars to be leaders and community servants,” Miller said. “I am proud of our scholars who led and contributed to the campaign to help St. Jude.”
To contribute to the fund, contact Ms. McCree at 404-622-2727.
Titus is considering an offer to attend Chatham Hall, a college preparatory school founded in 1894. The school has 140 scholars and a scenic campus that sits on 362 acres. Tuition is $48,000.
“I am thinking about attending high school at a private all-girls boarding school,” Titus said. “I was accepted, and they gave me a generous scholarship.”
Famous alumnae of Chatham Hall include artist Georgia O’Keeffe, NPR broadcaster, Ann Taylor, and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Claudia Emerson.
In July 2015, Titus was one of four members of Ivy Prep’s Beta Club to compete in the academic Quiz Bowl at Junior Beta Club’s national conference in Nashville, Tenn. The team placed fourth out of 35 teams playing a Jeopardy-style Quiz game that tested their mastery of math, literature, social studies, and science. In November 2014, Titus and fellow members of Ivy Prep’s Beta Club Quiz Bowl team qualified for nationals after defeating 75 contenders to win second place in a state competition.
Titus is among about a handful of Ivy Prep scholars to be accepted to elite boarding schools.
One of those scholars, Justice Robinson, is now a sophomore at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. Phillips is the alma mater of former US. Presidents George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush.
Robinson received a full scholarship at Andover, which costs $50,000 a year.
Vazquez-Mendoza, 12, is an honor student at Ivy Preparatory Academy Gwinnett. She will serve as Georgia’s Beta Club president for one year and compete for the national presidency in New Orleans this summer. The National Beta Club, which has been serving students for 80 years, is the country’s largest independent youth organization. It promotes scholarship, leadership, character, and community service, and has more than 350,000 members nationwide.
“It feels good to be the state president,” said Vazquez-Mendoza. “I want to help others who want to become leaders like me to follow their dreams.”
Vazquez-Mendoza is the first Ivy Prep Gwinnett scholar elected to a state office. She was nominated for Beta Club after a successful year in sixth grade. Ivy scholars in grades 6-8 who have good behavior and a grade point average of at least a 3.5 are recommended by teachers to be considered for membership in the elite organization.
“There is a high standard to be in Beta Club,” said Asia Aaron, an eighth grader at IPA Gwinnett. “You have to be a really good student. Beta Club helps you prepare for the future and it looks great on your resume as you apply for high school and college.”
IPA Beta Club members in grades 7-8 travel to the annual state leadership conference each year to compete against other chapters and attend leadership seminars. Vazquez-Mendoza won the state presidency during the school’s visit to the conference on Nov. 19-20 at Macon Marriott City Center.
Dr. LaShunda Hawkins, assistant principal at IPA Gwinnett, picked the seventh grader to run for state office. Vazquez-Mendoza said Ivy Prep’s focus on perseverance, leadership, engagement, and professionalism helped her to overcome some of anxiety over public speaking and meeting new people.
“I used to be really shy when I was younger,” she said. “The minute that I would stand up in front of the class my brain would go blank. Ivy Prep helps you to be more confident in yourself. You learn about leadership, public speaking, and have the opportunity to make a lot of new friends. With the help of my family, my friends, and my teachers, I overcame my fears.”
During the Macon conference, Vazquez- Mendoza cheered on her Beta Club teammates as they competed in the Quiz Bowl, Tower-building, Banner Design, and Living Literature events. Then, it was her turn. She battled butterflies in her stomach as she practiced her speech for the election. Her challenge seemed daunting. She had to introduce herself to a conference of more than 400 students, gain their trust quickly, and convince them to support her bid for president.
“Sophia, the Beta Club president at Ivy, told me to come into the restroom and repeat my speech over and over loud enough so that everybody could hear me when I walked up to the podium,” Vazquez-Mendoza recalled. “She kept telling me ‘Louder! Louder!’”
Other members also came in to coach her. “It was a wonderful team effort,” Dr. Hawkins, Beta Club sponsor, said.
Vazquez-Mendoza was the ninth and final candidate to give her speech to the packed room. Her Ivy Beta Club team members joined her on stage to do a skit and dance performance afterwards. Then, voting was held.
The following day, Vazquez-Mendoza was called on stage and named state president.
“When they announced my name as the winner, everybody screamed,” she said. “I called my parents right after. They were very happy.”
The good news brought Veronica Vazquez-Mendoza, Selina’s mother to tears. Her father Jose Vazquez-Mendoza was also floored. “I cried because I was so happy,” Veronica Vazquez-Mendoza said. “I knew that she was smart, but I never expected anything like this. I couldn’t believe it. Her father was so excited.”
Mr. Chaz Patterson, principal of IPA Gwinnett, is still beaming over the win. “I’m elated and overjoyed, not for just the school, but for Selina,” he said. “I have seen tremendous growth in her. It’s great to see that her fellow students in the state of Georgia also see her leadership potential. This is just a stepping stone in her limitless potential.”
The seventh grader says her win is proof that with the support of teachers, friends, and family that students can overcome anything. “I want to tell my fellow scholars that even though they have obstacles, they can achieve their goals,” she said. “If we help each other, we don’t have to struggle as much.”
The entire Ivy Prep Beta Club shared in her victory, Dr. Hawkins said. “Even though we had some sad faces after tough team competitions, when Selina won the presidency, she did it with the help of her sisters at Ivy. The fact that we walked away with the state presidency shows that our girls did an awesome job.”
Administrators at Ivy Preparatory Academy Gwinnett recently inducted high-achieving scholars into the Beta Club, IPA’s first student organization to receive national recognition for the academic prowess of its members.
The Ivy Prep Academy Beta Club promotes scholarship, leadership, character, and community service. Ivy scholars in grades 6-8 who have good behavior and a grade point average of at least a 3.5 are recommended by teachers to be considered for membership in the prestigious organization.
“It’s an honor to be in Beta Club,” said Dr. LaShunda Hawkins, assistant principal at IPA Gwinnett, who serves as the new sponsor for Beta Club. “It teaches you how to become a leader and how to work as a team. “
Beta Club members in grades 7-8 travel to an annual state leadership conference each year that features motivational speakers and club competitions.
Ivy Prep scholar Selena Vasquez was elected as state president during the Beta Club state conference on Nov. 19-20 at Macon Marriott City Center.
In July, four members of Ivy Prep’s Beta Club – Jedidah Titus, Mackenzie Williams, Shama Khan and Janai Kameka – competed as a team at Junior Beta Club’s national conference in Nashville, Tenn., where they placed fourth playing a Jeopardy-style Quiz Bowl game that tested their mastery of math, literature, social studies, and science. The scholars took a test with 25 questions and a bonus essay to earn a spot in the final rounds. They competed against teams from 35 states across the country.
“We are the only group in Georgia that made the top four,’’ beamed Mr. Chaz Patterson, principal of IPA Gwinnett. “I was so elated that our girls went in and did what they needed to do and got fourth place.”
“This is the first Ivy Prep group to make it to nationals,” said Ms. Linda Desmond, who led the organization last school year and attended nationals with the group. “I am really proud of them. They learned that they can achieve anything that they put their mind to.”
Beta Team Ivy qualified for nationals after winning second place in the Quiz Bowl at the state conference in Macon last November. The team defeated 75 contenders. Ivy Prep took 36 Beta Club members to the overnight conference to compete in a variety of events that showcased their intellectual and artistic talents.
Ivy Prep’s Beta Club is a local chapter of National Beta Club, the country’s largest independent nonprofit youth organization. National Beta Club has been serving scholars for 80 years. It has more than 350,000 members nationwide.
Beta Club is one of Ivy Prep’s largest student organizations. In addition to attending the state conference, club members also host community service activities.
Sixth graders become eligible for Beta Club membership after report cards are issued.
“We are looking at kids who have been on the honor roll and who exemplify our Prep Values – Professionalism, Responsibility, Engagement and Perseverance,” Hawkins said. “We teach them about leadership and everything they need to know to prepare for college.”
Young dancers at Ivy Preparatory Academy Kirkwood School for Girls have been invited to participate in Governor Nathan Deal’s state kickoff of Red Ribbon Week on Thursday.
The student step team and dance company will make their second appearance in two years at the annual Red Ribbon ceremony, which will mark the official start of a week’s long effort to teach Georgia public school children about the dangers of illegal drug use and under-aged alcohol consumption. Governor Deal has issued a proclamation declaring Oct. 23 -31 as Red Ribbon Week. The proclamation calls on parents, educators and community leaders to “demonstrate their commitment to healthy, drug-free lifestyles by wearing and displaying red ribbons during the week-long campaign.”
Ivy Preparatory Academies will mark the observance with school discussions and other activities. A Red Ribbon Week parade will be held at the Kirkwood campus in Atlanta on October 30. The student dance team also will perform at the parade.
The student dancers are choreographed by Footloose and Company of Atlanta. The team has been practicing their Red Ribbon Week dance numbers for more than a month.
On a recent day, choreographers Toris Jones and Ida Oliver led the group of young dancers as they stretched, kicked, and bounced to the beat of a chart-topping pop song. The determined dancers were committed to their artistry. They rehearsed their routine again and again in anticipation of a flawless performance for Gov. Deal.
“We are very excited to participate in the ceremony,” Jones said. “This will be our second year. We had a trial run last year with steppers. It went so well that they expected for us to come back without even trying out. Our dancers will be doing a number of things including step, jazz and liturgical dance.”
Student performers say that the highlight of their show will be a lively dance to Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” a popular anthem of self-awareness and empowerment.
“The children will be fighting for their right to stand up and say ‘No’ to drugs,” Jones explained. “They will be fighting for their right to take a stand against bullying and to pledge to do their best in their class work.”
Kimberly Elliott, a fourth grader, said she is eager to perform for Gov. Deal and dance in the parade. “This is my first year on the dance team,” she said. “It’s something fun to do.”
Nevaeh Curtis, a returning dancer, agreed. She wasn’t surprised that Ivy Prep Kirkwood’s dance team was in demand on the state level. “Miss Jones has a successful dance company.”
The state partnership is one of the latest proactive steps administrators have taken to reverse declines in student achievement. IPA also contracted the services of Yardstick Learning, one of the nation’s leading strategic management consulting firms, to provide assistance with improving school operations. In addition, a task force of local, state, and national education experts has been offering support and guidance to IPYMLA as administrators work to improve student progress.
ATLANTA- Officials at the Southern Poverty Law Center have named Ivy Preparatory Young Men’s Leadership Academy in DeKalb County as a “Mix Model” school for its efforts to curb bullying and to promote a supportive environment of respect among scholars.
The Alabama-based group will honor the work of IPYMLA teacher Shandreka West and her fourth grade class next month at an Anti-Bullying Summit in Peachtree City on June 18. West has been invited to speak at the Auburn University summit and share the outcome of a class project that transformed learning and united fourth graders in the charter school for boys.
“It is an honor to be recognized,” said West, who has been an educator for eight years. “The work that we are doing is encouraging students to make new friends, celebrate each other’s successes and perform random acts of kindness for their classmates. As a result, we have a more welcoming environment and fewer conflicts between students.”
In Oct. 27, West’s classroom celebrated national “Mix It Up Day”, a campaign of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program that challenges children to leave their comfort zone and cliques behind to have lunch with students that they don’t know. West decided to take it a step further and temporarily merge class activities with Ivy Prep’s other fourth grade teacher, Stephanie Mathurin, for two weeks to have a larger impact on scholars.
Some fourth graders were hesitant about the change. Others made fast friends.
“At first, I was nervous because this is my first year, and I don’t really know everyone,” said Jordan Taylor, 10. But after a few days of seeing new faces at lunch and on the playground, Taylor’s circle of fourth grade friends doubled. “I got to know more and more people. It gave me a chance to talk to them about school and their hobbies.”
Soon blossoming friendships ended awkwardness in lunch lines and tense moments on the playground between students who had previously been strangers to each other. West said fourth graders became so comfortable “mixing it up” that they asked for collaborative opportunities during the school day.
“They asked if they could ‘mix it up’ during target time,” West said. “Usually, when we are working on content areas, they don’t really get together to collaborate and share strategies. They really like the interaction.”
Scholar Keonte Knight, 10, said the outreach project gave him more study partners.
“We help each other and give each other a head’s up when we are learning something new.”
For Terrell George, 10, it was a family reunion. “Some of the kids in the other class I have known since kindergarten,” George said. “We caught up on everything we missed since we were split up into different classrooms.”
In addition to spending time bonding, scholars began to do kind things for each other and publicly praise each other during “shout-outs” for excellent work.
West wrote about her classroom experience on an application to be a Mix It Up model candidate. She was recently notified that IPYMLA was chosen as a 2015 Mix Model School.
“We were very impressed by your testimony of your program’s effects on bullying at your school,” Monita Bell, Mix It Up Coordinator, said in a note to West.
Mrs. Victoria Wiley, executive director of Ivy Preparatory Academies, credited West for the recognition and praised her initiative. “Ms. West’s collaborative strategies are making an impact on the education of her scholars,” Wiley said. “We applaud her.”
West is preparing for her talk at the conference and making plans to expand next year’s celebration. “Maybe next year we can mix it up with the fifth grade so when our scholars make the transition there, they will already be experts,” she said.
For more information, visit www.tolerance.org.
Four Ivy Preparatory Academy Gwinnett scholars have been invited to represent the state of Georgia at the national Beta Club Convention in Nashville, Tenn. this summer after winning second place in a state Quiz Bowl competition.
The scholars, Jedidah Titus, Mackenzie Williams, Shama Khan and Janai Kameka, won the honor by defeating 75 teams participating in the Jeopardy-style Quiz Bowl contest at the state Beta Club Convention late last month. The Quiz Bowl contestants answered trivia about books, solved math problems and aced questions on social studies and science in the race against time. The game tested their mastery of the academic curriculum and their ability to work as a group.
“They had to hit a buzzer to be the first to get bonus questions,” Linda Desmond, a faculty sponsor for Beta Club explained. “The girls were ecstatic when they won. We are so proud of them. This is really a big deal. They will be representing the state at nationals.”
The Ivy Prep team entered the Quiz Bowl’s final round ranked among the top four teams in the state. The girls won 85-0 against their three competitors. Team Ivy was narrowly defeated in the championship against River Trail Middle School in Alpharetta, which placed first in the event. Both teams received plaques and invitations to nationals.
“I am very excited,” said Williams, a member of the winning team at Ivy Prep. “We studied hard to prepare for the Quiz Bowl and to learn to answer questions as quick as possible. It has been a great experience.”
The Quiz Bowl winners were among 36 Ivy Prep scholars who attended the state conference in Macon. The annual convention exposes students in grades 4-12 to activities that develop their leadership skills, push them to excel academically, and inspire them to volunteer in their communities. Ivy Prep Gwinnett allows girls in grades 7 and 8 to attend the convention.
Ivy Prep students represented themselves and the school well in Macon, Desmond said. “They all acted incredibly professional and respectful. It was a really a good trip for everyone.”
For many Ivy scholars, the conference was their first academic overnight trip away from home. Faculty sponsors said the girls spent several weeks preparing to compete in events. Some helped to make the banner for Ivy Prep in an art competition. Others competed in a Living Literature contest recreating a scene from a book. The rest competed in Quiz Bowl.
“The theme of the conference was ‘ Beta is Rocking the Country,’ ” said Hannah Bolar, a seventh grader. “We decided to do a pun on that. We drew a portrait of Bon Jovi in a rocking chair writing a song near a map of the United States.”
Ivy scholars who participated in the Living Literature competition chose to recreate the knife-throwing scene from the fiction adventure book “Divergent” by Veronica Roth. In the scene, the book’s heroine faces a test of bravery as she faces a knife-thrower in a precision demonstration for the new recruits of Erudite.
“We had so much to set up,” said Alyssa Wray, a seventh grader. “We had to make the background. We had to get our poses right and stand very still. You had to stay in one position for an hour.”
Another Ivy Prep student ran for office and gained experience competing against her peers campaigning on a state level.
Faculty co-sponsor Rebecca Enright gathered ideas to help students launch a Beta Club community service project after winter holiday break. Desmond said the club also will accept new members. Invitations to join Beta Club will be sent to scholars with at least a 3.5 grade point average who have demonstrated good behavior at school.
Ivy Preparatory Academy Schools administrators and board members celebrated the launch of an innovative expansion at the Kirkwood campus with a ribbon cutting ceremony recently.
The event marked the next chapter for Ivy Prep Kirkwood as a landowner of the strip mall that houses the public charter school and a landlord to businesses leasing property in the building.
Ivy Prep raised $13.7 million through the sale of revenue bonds to purchase the site and make the school a landmark in DeKalb County. Officials with the State Charter Schools Commission said the bond deal is the “first of its kind” for a state- approved charter school.
Scholars representing Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls and Ivy Prep Young Men’s Leadership Academy welcomed the audience of supporters with the school song, motto and creed. Members of the State Charter Schools Commission, the Georgia Charter Schools Association, the Parkview Civic Association, and the DeKalb County government were among those in attendance of the ribbon cutting.
“We are gathered here today to celebrate a momentous occasion for Ivy Prep Academy,” said Mrs. Victoria Wiley, executive director of Ivy Preparatory Academy Schools network. “Even though Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls has purchased this building, this is an accomplishment for all three schools.
“This moment is a fresh start – a new beginning. As we cut this ribbon we are showing our community, that we are here to stay,” Wiley said. “We are making a commitment to our parents and our Parkview neighbors. I couldn’t be more proud to serve this organization and our scholars.”
The bond deal took two years to complete from the idea stage to the approval stage. Ivy Prep partnered with the DeKalb County Development Authority to seek a bond issue to finance the purchase of the 100,000 square-foot strip mall. The campus, which is at capacity with about 800 students, will soon expand. Ivy Prep received $650,000 from the bond to develop more than 15,000 square feet of space on campus into classrooms and separate the single-gender schools at Kirkwood, which currently share an entrance, a cafeteria, and a playground.
Construction will begin in late January.
“There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child,” Christopher Kunney, chairman of the board of IPA told the audience. “This endeavor shows what it means to have a village who truly invests in our children. You are our future. We are happy to serve you and to be able to provide more classroom space for you to learn and grow in and be successful.”
Kirkwood scholars are excited about the getting new classrooms. They say the expansion is needed because some classes are being held outside of the building due to space restrictions.
“The chance to expand is huge; I believe that this will give the school a better chance to suit all of our needs,” said Nicholas Oliver, a freshman at Ivy Prep Kirkwood’s new high school. “We have some high school classes at the YMCA because we could not be accommodated here with all of the students here. We will be able to attract more students to Kirkwood, and we will have more classrooms for the high school.”
Ivy Prep is the first charter school to buy a building that has a built-in cash stream of existing commercial tenants. The purchase takes a new approach to providing adequate classroom space to charter school students that could revitalize communities and breathe new life into struggling strip malls.
Gregg Stevens, counsel for the State Charter Schools Commission said: “Ivy Prep will be able to rent out their facilities and use the rent they receive to pay back the bond. Having your own facility really sends a message that you are part of a community and you deserve to be there.”
Wiley and Kunney recognized all who supported the effort to buy the Kirkwood building from staff to Hamlin Capital Management, which purchased the bonds and Baird, the underwriter for the bond deal.
Kendra Shipmon, principal of Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls, was praised for co-facilitating the project.
“She was my backing through this whole process,” Wiley told Shipmon. “I truly appreciate all of your hard work.”
Wiley also thanked Kunney for his support. “He has been at the forefront of this project from the beginning. I thank you for your guidance. I appreciate you taking time way from your own family to make this happen for our family.”
Shipmon she feels “honored” to work at Ivy Prep Kirkwood. “It’s an amazing task we have here and an amazing opportunity to change the lives of scholars.”
Shipmon said tenants of the strip mall LIV Fitness, Pizza Hut and Kirkwood Family Medicine, a Grady health care facility will remain in the plaza and forge partnerships with the school. Administrators said they would like to see Pizza Hut deliveries include school enrollment flyers and Ivy Prep parents sending their children to the clinic for physicals.
Following the ceremony, new board member Bruce Taylor looked over proposed architectural drawings of the expanded campus. He was impressed by what he saw. “This allows us to get even more kids into an excellent educational program.”
Seven years ago, Brittany Gilbert was the first sixth grader to enroll in Ivy Preparatory Academy, Georgia’s first single-gender public charter school. Now, as a senior at Ivy Prep, Gilbert has achieved another milestone. She is the first to be accepted to college.
Gilbert, 17, was accepted to Hampton University, her top college choice, recently during Steve Harvey’s Neighborhood Awards
Expo at the Georgia World Congress Center. Hampton University admissions officials recruiting students at the Expo’s College Fair interviewed Gilbert, looked over her application and transcripts, and gave her a letter of acceptance to take home with her.