Everett and Darnisha Stevenson-Spears remember when they were searching for just the right elementary school for their son, who’s now 17 and getting ready to graduate from high school. For so many reasons, New Paradigm Glazer Academy was top of their list.
“We were doing research for schools in the area to accommodate what we were trying to achieve because we know how important education is,” Everett Stevenson-Spears says. “We were looking for schools that could give our kids the tools they can use to uplift themselves to be predominant citizens and get as much knowledge as they can.”
All these years later, both parents are proud that all five of their kids have attended — or are attending — New Paradigm Glazer Academy, a preK-8 charter public school in Detroit’s Hope Village neighborhood.
As a Grand Valley State University Charter School, New Paradigm Glazer Academy has knowledgeable, caring teachers and administrators that honor the school’s history of educating students who are prepared to face the challenges of high school, college and beyond, says Jacqueline Dungey, Principal at New Paradigm Glazer Academy.
“That’s really what makes Glazer different,” Dungey says. “We are a school with a rigorous curriculum and interventions for those who may be struggling as well as other programs for those who achieve at the highest levels.”
When parents dig deeper than test scores and housing values — common quality indicators on school ranking websites — they’ll recognize how many parents and grandparents enroll their children in the very same school they attended. The true worth of New Paradigm Glazer Academy shines when multiple generations make the choice to send their children to the same school they attended.
“These families have a strong commitment to their students being well-rounded and connected to their community and their past,” Dungey says. “We have teachers who are dedicated to the kids and generations who continue to live in the community or travel from the east side because they want their children to attend our school. Sometimes you can’t tell the story of a school by the numbers or what you might see on a random website.”
Glazer Academy is even stronger as a charter school
Community partnerships blend with charter school opportunities at Glazer Academy to provide students and teachers the tools they need to succeed, Dungey says, adding that volunteer parent groups support events and musical programs, Focus:HOPE provides extracurricular learning opportunities like cooking and photography so kids can expand their own interests, and local organizations sponsor a school garden.
“This means we can implement our curriculum and train our teaching team and build partnerships to meet needs in a variety of ways — and that’s huge,” she says. Students can succeed in school and life with the right support, which is what they get at New Paradigm Glazer Academy.
“You may drive into the Focus:HOPE area and might not know what our kids are capable of. We’re here to change the narrative because no matter where you live, there are excellent teachers who strive to know your students on a different level,” Dungey says. “We aim to produce students who are college-bound and ready for global experiences. They’re lifelong learners and contributors to society. Where they grow up is not a barrier for our students because we can get them to those highest levels.”
From a parent’s perspective, this excellence in teaching makes all the difference, Everett Stevenson-Spears says. “Anyone can teach, but when they recognize kids for the help they need, or stay late to work with them, you know they take their job personally,” he says. “When you care about kids and what they are going to become, you’re taking it to another level. That’s a good school.”
Recognizing that a solid educational foundation is important regardless of what paths his children choose, Stevenson-Spears welcomes the challenges and leadership opportunities his kids face at Glazer Academy.
“If the foundation isn’t solid, your house isn’t solid, and our oldest son is in the 12th grade and getting straight As,” he says. Each one of his five children have similar success stories, from serving as student body president to building a strong entrepreneurial spirit. His kids have always had the tools they need to succeed, he says, adding that all children who attend Glazer Academy have that support.
“What’s important is that teachers notice when kids are struggling but don’t make them feel inferior. They take the time to work with them,” he says, adding that a local parent group called Mocha Moms give kids paper, pencils and backpacks — whatever they need — without fanfare. “This school is doing these personal things for students who might not be as fortunate so everyone is on the same playing field.”
Big goals need strong foundations
As a dad who gets involved in his kids’ education, Stevenson-Spears talks often about goals and dreams.
“I let them know that I want them all to at least get an associate degree. They can go on, but they have to get that education,” he says.
With one child focused on business, another interested in nursing and a third dreaming of being a sports writer, Stevenson-Spears says they all understand how important education is for their future aspirations. “They have to want it as bad as I want it and they have the thirst of knowledge to make it happen. To be an entrepreneur, a surgeon, own a Fortune 500 business or go to Harvard and become the president of the United States, these are the dreams they have and these are the conversations I have with them,” he says.
With parents who believe so strongly in their success — and who have chosen a school that provides a strong educational foundation — the Stevenson-Spears kids are on a strong path. And they’re not alone, says Dungey.
“Every student needs an additional adult to advocate for them in the world,” she says. “Our students have those opportunities in our afterschool programs or with their classroom teachers or volunteers and we are there to meet the same goals for our students.”