Four years ago, the St. Petersburg-based Academy Prep private school bought a beat-up old grammar school in a rough patch of Ybor City and made big promises to the neighborhood: It would enroll a handful of local kids, free of charge, and help them open doors to a brighter future.
Tomorrow, the school will offer proof that it's making good on lofty goals. Its first group of eighth graders - 18 in all - will move on to high school. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio is even on tap to give the commencement address. But here's the bigger news: 14 of the 18 earned scholarships to prep schools including Jesuit, Tampa Prep and Academy of the Holy Names. The other four have enrolled in public school magnet programs. Academy Prep has a reputation for churning out high-achievers with a regimen that includes a longer school day (11 hours every weekday) and a longer school year (5 hours daily through June.) School head Lincoln Tamayo isn't shy about describing the results: "What we have done," he told The Gradebook, "probably cannot be matched by any inner city middle school in … all of Tampa and St. Petersburg."
- Ron Matus, state education reporter
(Photo of grads courtesy of Academy Prep)