Founded in 2009, YMCA Tiger Academy is a public charter school that provides valuable education for scholars in pre-K through 5th grade and serves as a much-needed educational resource for families in the community.
The Academy focuses on rigorous academic standards, character development, personal and social responsibility, and strong family involvement while providing each child with a structured and nurturing learning environment. This is made possible through a unique partnership with the Johnson Family YMCA — a branch of the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast — where scholars enjoy enrichment opportunities and benefit from family support services.
“Tiger Academy has a strong relationship with the YMCA here in Northwest Jacksonville where every student and their family has an opportunity for a free membership,” explained Stephanie Jackson, the Tiger Academy principal. “We want to ensure they have every resource available to live healthy lives, both in and out of the classroom. Currently, students ride the Tiger bus to the Johnson YMCA for P.E., science lab and Safety Around Water lessons.”
Jackson added one of the things that makes Tiger Academy unique is its daily structure. The school day goes from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and the school year is 195 days long. This is three academic weeks longer than the traditional 180-day school year. The students engage in 90-minute reading and math blocks as well as instruction in science and social studies. Students have resources — P.E., music, art or library — every day except Fridays when they participate in clubs. A majority of the students also take part in afterschool activities on campus through Team Up or the Tiger Academy afterschool program.
The Tiger Difference
- Enrichment opportunities and family support services at the Y include a family membership for each student.
- Longer school day and year than traditional public school.
- Before and afterschool care available.
- Safety precautions enforced.
- Strong college focus from the first day students step into a classroom.
- One-to-one, student-to-technology device ratio.
“We strongly encourage participation in and have seen great response to our variety of clubs,” shared Jackson. “Whether it’s gardening or robotics club, our students are choosing something they want to be involved in. These clubs help develop camaraderie and have cut down on behavior issues.”
Furthermore, Tiger Academy has a mentorship program where each staff member has a handful of students they mentor and check on. Jackson said it encourages accountability and allows for students to open up to an adult that isn’t their teacher or parent.
“Tiger Academy is truly unique in its collaborative approach with scholars and their parents,” said Jackson. “We believe in consistently including them in events and learning opportunities as they are just as vital to the educational growth of their children as we are as educators.”
Photo courtesy of YMCA of Florida’s First Coast.
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