After completing its inaugural year, WesternAcademy at the Neblett is taking registrations through Sept. 19 for the current academic year.
The academy, which opening in October 2019, hopes to attract up to 60 scholars, said Olga McKissic, executive director of the H.L. Neblett Community Center.
New this year: Western Academy has added a seventh-grade class. The academy now serves Black boys who are enrolled in third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grades.
Also, an hour of instruction has been added. Instead of starting at 10 a.m., sessions will begin at 9 a.m. and end at noon every other Saturday throughout the school year.
Last year, instructors from Owensboro Public Schools taught STEM courses, robotics, and life skills. This year, Daviess County Public Schools also agreed to support the program, McKissic said.
“With the climate we have today, it is more important than ever that we start reaching our African-American boys. … We want them to focus on their education,” McKissic said.
The academy is patterned after the BMW Academy in Lexington. BMW stands for Black Males Working.
BMW Academy started 15 years ago in an effort to close the academic achievement gap experienced by many young Black males in Fayette County Public Schools
Teachers refer to students at both academies as scholars. They wear uniforms, participate in community service projects and earn rewards for academic success.
Scholars are taught that they are “at promise,” not at risk.
Both academies use an Afrocentric viewpoint. During Saturday morning sessions, scholars hear “power stories” from successful Black professionals.
Last year, 21 boys enrolled in the Western Academy pilot program. Of those, 19 attended the opening session.
McKissic said an average of 16 came to Saturday morning classes.
“We help summer sessions because we wanted to keep our scholars engaged,” she said.
Last year, 60% of the academy’s students showed improvement in reading scores. Nearly 60% improved in math, McKissic said.
This year, 10 boys will be accepted per grade level, so the space is limited.
Classes being at 9 a.m. Oct. 17.
Because of COVID-19, the academy will waive its $20 registration fee.
Two parent-interest meetings are scheduled at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, and Sept. 17. The meetings are conducted via the internet. Parents who want the link should call 270-685-3197 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, a registration table will be set up from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 19 in the Neblett Community Center’s parking lot.
A kick-off party to welcome students is planned from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 26 on the Neblett Community Center playground. Hamburgers and hot dogs will be served.
At the event, everyone must wear a face mask and practice physical distancing. Also, temperatures will be taken.
Parents are responsible for scholars’ uniforms, which consist of a polo shirt, khaki pants, black belt and black shoes. Even during virtual classes this summer, scholars were required to wear their Western Academy uniforms.
McKissic said uniforms cost $35. Last year, a donor paid for student’s uniforms.
Anyone who wants to sponsor a Western Academy scholar’s uniform may call 270-685-3917 or email email@example.com.
McKissic said the idea behind the academy is to let Black boys know it is OK for them to be smart and to focus on education.
When talking about Western Academy, she often borrows a quote from Frederick Douglass, a social reformer, abolitionist and statesman, who said: “It is easier to train strong children than to repair broken men.”
“We’re trying to build strong Black boys into strong Black men so they will be strong fathers and productive citizens,” McKissic said of the academy. “… It takes effort from all of us.”