At The Soulsville Charter School, the shared focus is on preparing the students for success in college and beyond.
Acceptance letters – dozens of them – help build the case for mission accomplished. This year, each senior in the graduating class has just such a letter. It's the second consecutive year that every senior has been accepted to college, all of them to four-year programs. The details show many of the students headed to some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country, and many with substantial scholarships.
"Each of the school's classrooms is themed around a college or university and on most mornings this time of year, we announce college acceptance letters over the intercom," said NeShante Brown, executive director of The Soulsville Charter School (TSCS).
"This generates a buzz among the students and faculty and is exciting and encouraging to the younger students who will be graduating in years to come."
Last year, TSCS had its first-ever graduation, with all 51 seniors accepted to college. Many had been in the sixth grade in 2005, when the school was founded, and many of them were years behind in academic achievement at that time. The combined amount of scholarships and grants among the class was more than $3.8 million. The graduation day was featured in a live segment from the school on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" with ESPN analyst Digger Phelps, who referred to TSCS as "an American success story."
The 100 percent acceptance rate was achieved last year in May. This year, it happened in February.
This list of schools to which TSCS students have been accepted this year are Rhodes College, Wesleyan University, Wake Forest University, Tufts University, University of Tennessee Knoxville, Barnard College, Morehouse College, Carleton College, Sewanee: The University of the South, Centre College, University of Virginia, and Rice University, with many more colleges yet to notify students.
Stephani Brownlee received a $250,000 scholarship to Brown University as a winner of the Questbridge National College Match. Calvin McGowan was one of only a few Memphis City Schools students to receive a prestigious National Achievement Scholarship. Three young men have also received full tuition scholarships to Morehouse.
This year, there are 37 graduating seniors. The school's college counselors are working feverishly to surpass last year's $3.8 million scholarship mark, even though the class is smaller.
An announcement about scholarships will be made on April 27th, during Stax to the Max, the Stax Museum's all-day, outdoor, free arts and music festival.
TSCS's College and Alumni Support team for 2012-13 includes three counselors (two full-time and one-part time), plus a part-time coordinator, who is focused on current TSCS students and the alumni that the office is charged with follow-up throughout their college years.
(For more information, contact Tim Sampson, Soulsville Foundation communications director, at 901-485-8735, or visit www.thesoulsvillecharterschool.org.)