We are proud to share this guest post by Anthony Gordon, founder of S.H. James Prep, about his vision for a school that gives students access to success. Photos are from the youth entrepreneurship pop-up shop hosted by S.H. James Prep and the Boardroom Project on May 1, 2021.
Equity is not a new conversation. It is, however, a conversation that we must continue, especially as it relates to overall access to success for students.
We exist in a world where we have seemingly limitless access, so it can be hard to understand why access is an issue for so many students and families in San Antonio. In order to understand the issue, it’s important to get closer in proximity to the problem. When you begin to zoom in, you will find a laundry list of gaps and divides that can severely hinder access.
This applies to many areas—economics, social, technology, information, secure housing, physical and mental health services, food security, quality employment, education opportunities, and more. While these issues may not be exclusive to any single community, when you see multiple issues compounded you tend to see greater lack of access, which in turn can hinder success.
A Revolution in Schools
As a 13-year veteran in education, I have worked in private, charter, and district school networks. I have seen great success and systems that address very specific needs of students. But there was always something missing. If academics were strong, culture often suffered. If culture was strong, there was not enough time in the day to drill down on academics. I knew that something revolutionary had to be done to give students more consistent access to success.
When I speak of access to success, I am referring directly to a combination of the tangible and soft skills that one must have to achieve their goals in life. It is not enough to be strong academically, while alienating all other skills that one may need as they progress. For example, a student who is advanced academically may struggle in social environments if their focus has been solely on their studies and not how the world around them works. So what is the tipping point?
When I began the City Education Partners EdLaunch Fellowship to propose Revolution Public Schools and S.H. James Preparatory Academy, it was important for me to ground myself in community as a bedrock of our model. Over a year ago, we began by having conversations with parents, students, educators, community leaders, entrepreneurs and more on the Eastside of San Antonio. We overwhelmingly heard back that equity of access is still a major issue which has been exponentially compounded by the pandemic.
We heard from students and parents who wanted programming that addressed practical learning opportunities and embraced culture. We connected with current and recent college graduates who discussed the need for students to learn more soft skills and receive social and emotional support.
Additionally, we heard from business owners and community leaders who are seeing an extreme shift in the skills and mindsets that will lead to future success. As one business owner said, regarding his current struggles with adjusting his own practices to the new and advanced skill sets of his Gen Z employees: “As educators you have the unenviable task of preparing students for professions and problems that don’t yet exist.”
Goals at S.H. James Prep
At James Prep, our mission is to mobilize 5th through 12th grade students using personalized, literacy-based curriculum to cultivate self-aware, innovative thinkers with an entrepreneurial mindset who are civic and global leaders of the future. We focus on three components that have evolved from our community co-design process: (1) Social and Emotional Health and Wellness, (2) Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy, and (3) Community Based Entrepreneurism.
Our goal is to create a system that actively combats the lack of equitable access that contributes to the uneven playing field that our students and many families in San Antonio experience based solely on defining factors that are beyond their control. We want young people to dive into their own history and culture while experiencing the world outside their neighborhoods to cast a broader vision for their future.
Again and again we have had students tell us that they want an education that speaks to their passion and vision. They want to be prepared for their future, in college and beyond. They want flexibility and the ability to live out their dreams personally and professionally. They want to be prepared for a world that has changed drastically and in many ways may never be the same.
What we have taken away from this is while academic skills are still fundamental, the need to teach soft and practical skills is under appreciated in terms of helping students succeed in life beyond the classroom. Soft skills include learning how to relate to people from different backgrounds in a professional setting, conflict resolution, mental health, self care, financial literacy, emotional intelligence, advocacy, coping with failure, asking for help, etc.
Moving Forward to Improve Access to Success
While these soft skills may not be the magic pill that cures all of the ills that relate to equitable access to success for our students, we can begin to create a revolution that moves toward equity in education and allows fiscally challenged and students of color to change their trajectory and that of their families and communities.
As you read this article, we will be awaiting the update on our charter approval from the state. We would love to continue to connect with the community and hear more about our vision for education. Please feel free to visit our website at shjamesprep.org and join our mailing list. You can also like and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. I am also available to chat one on one; please email me at email@example.com.
S. H. James Prep on Charter Moms Chats
Anthony Gordon is the founder of Revolution Public Schools and their first campus, S.H. James Preparatory Academy. James Prep will be founded on three principles: Social Emotional Health and Wellness, Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy and Community Based Entrepreneurship. Anthony has 13 years of experience in education and has worked in private, public and charter systems throughout the state of Texas. He has been a teacher, campus-based and regional leader. S.H. James Prep will be named after Gordon’s grandfather who was the 1st Black City Councilman in San Antonio. Additionally, in 1959, Anthony’s mother, Angela, was a part of a group of students bussed from the Eastside to integrate San Antonio Independent School District at Jefferson High School. Gordon is influenced by his own educational journey, as well as his experience teaching on the Eastside where he found students still facing severe systemic inequities. He is determined to continue the fight to provide an equitable education for students in San Antonio. In addition to being an educator, Anthony is also a husband, father, award winning DJ, a nationally recognized Slam Poet and Youth Poetry Slam Coach.
Read More About Educators and Advocacy
- “How the pandemic worsened an already problematic digital divide for students of color in San Antonio,” Jon Coker, KENS 5, April 20, 2021
- “Teacher Tales: “You Are My Why” — Abel F. De Leon at the School of Science and Technology,” Abel F. De Leon, San Antonio Charter Moms, (reposted by Education Post), November 4, 2020
- “Teacher Tales: Jefferson High School International Baccalaureate World School in San Antonio ISD,” Ralf Halderman and Chris Stanley, San Antonio Charter Moms, November 18, 2020