A Family of Learning: Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy
By Abner Oakes
ISA's National Director of Outreach and Engagement
Tell us about your school and the young people there. What might a visitor to your school notice first and foremost?
Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy was established in 2004 from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The school is a magnet program which serves students in grades 6–12 and strives to prepare first–generation college students for a rigorous college experience. Many of our students remain at Winston-Salem Prep throughout their middle and high school years, with the total population of the school at about 395 students. We have small class sizes which foster a familial school culture. Our high school recently received recognition for an outstanding graduation rate of 96 percent; and this school year, a college exposure initiative was created to provide our students with exposure to surrounding colleges and universities beginning as early as their eighth–grade year. Our middle school is a Verizon Innovative Learning school, and this program provides our middle school students with iPads, a data plan, and high speed internet. This program has given us the opportunity to be 1-to-1 with devices for every student and teacher in grades 6–12.
A visitor to Winston-Salem Prep usually notices our beautiful historic building that was erected in 1931 as a Rosenwald School. The building and grounds have been well preserved and restored over the years, with some of the original architecture still intact. Many visitors remark that they can feel the history as they walk through the building. When visitors enter learning environments at our school, they sense the familial environment between staff and students and our work to build this climate to grow both our students and teachers.
What would you say are the greatest strengths of Winston-Salem Prep?
I would say that the greatest strengths of our school are some of what I have outlined above: The familial learning environment with small class sizes that foster effective personalized learning and our technology, with high school students 1-to-1 with Chromebooks and middle school students 1-to-1 using iPads. Our school also has important access to community resources. For example, an entrepreneurship program will be established at Winston-Salem Prep for the 2020–2021 school year through a philanthropic group called The Twenty, with Wake Forest University undergraduates and medical students serving as mentors and academic tutors to our students.
How has ISA helped you and your teachers? What’s been the most valuable part of your work with ISA?
ISA coaches have been very instrumental in providing non-evaluative support to our teachers in language arts and math. With ISA’s support, our teachers are able to strengthen their instruction within the framework established by the school’s leadership team. ISA coaches have provided strategies that have propelled growth related to our quarterly benchmarks.
The most valuable part of my own work with ISA has been the time I’ve spent with my principal coach, Dr. Marvin Pryor. His perspective and help have been invaluable, providing me with approaches to school improvement that have proved to be very resourceful for both my staff and my personal career.
Where do you imagine Winston-Salem Prep going in the next five years? What does the future hold for your school and its students?
Here are our highlights:
- Increased enrollment;
- A stronger academic framework that prepares our students with leadership skills and an entrepreneurial mindset upon graduation;
- Strengthened ties to the community that will provide more internship opportunities and avenues that will build industry–recognized skills among our students; and lastly
- Winston-Salem Prep as a leading magnet program for minority students in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad.