Public boarding school with college-prep focus set to open in Florida

SEED-School_MiamiThe newest addition to Florida’s portfolio of learning options is part of a public boarding school network that 60 Minutes called “one of the most successful and innovative public schools in the country.”

The SEED Foundation school in Miami, set to open this fall, is modeled after the college-prep SEED schools in Washington D.C. and Baltimore. According to the foundation, 90 percent of its graduates have enrolled in college and 60 percent have graduated or soon will graduate from college.

“We offer the gift of time, education and support, 24 hours a day, five days a week,” Kara Locke, who will become head of school in Miami, said in a phone interview with redefinED.

Business consultants Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota established The SEED Foundation in 1997 after spotting an opportunity to provide better education options for at-risk students. “There’s boarding schools for rich kids; why aren’t there boarding schools for poor kids?” Vinnakota told 60 Minutes in 2010. “The intense academic environment, the 24-hour aspect and constant access to role models. Why wouldn’t all of those things be just as important for poor kids as it would be for rich kids?”

SEED schools emphasize traditional academics, college preparation, self-confidence, discipline, responsibility, athletics and performing arts. Along with a safe place to live, play and study, students receive three meals a day and the opportunity to develop relationships with strong mentors and role models.

Tuition is free. The school receives public support for operating costs but raises private funds to support capital and start-up costs. Students live in a dormitory during the week. “It is a home” and “a nurturing place,” said Locke, who served as principal of the SEED school in D.C. from 2007 to 2013 and lived in the school’s dormitories for the last five years.

Miami was chosen as the newest location because the Miami-Dade school district is big, diverse and supportive, said Tia Diaz-Balart, SEED’s South Florida project manager. The foundation began laying the groundwork for the school several years ago with the help of the non-profit Educate Tomorrow. Diaz-Balart has been building community support and facilitating the start-up phase.

The application window opened Jan. 15 and will close March 31. Eligible students must be rising 6th graders (currently in 5th grade) from low-income families (below 200 percent of the poverty level) and exhibit at least one other “risk factor.” That includes having at least one parent currently incarcerated, being a foster child, or being a member of a family that receives aid to needy families (TANF) or housing assistance.

The foundation is in the middle of a $50 million capital campaign to build out the school as it expands from 6th through 12th grade. If you’d like to contribute, you can make a donation here.

Update: The capital campaign was $50 million, not $55 million as we originally reported.

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