Delaware Today magazine 302 DT Reads: Prestige Academy in Wilmington is a charter school that is transforming the lives of its students
The Ties That Bind: At Prestige Academy, it’s about tough beginnings and honorable endings.
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In the early afternoon hours of Aug. 24, the 900 block of East 17th Street in Wilmington is hot and heavy and bright beneath a blazing city sun. The weathered row homes that line the narrow block almost appear to creak beneath the relentless burn and simmering humidity. And all around, the powder keg indolence of inner-city youth can be found perched on stoops, wandering alleys, or looking for trouble whenever trouble doesn’t come looking for them.
If his life hadn’t changed so drastically over the past three years, 13-year-old Daivon Jackson-Wright may have been out there, too, whiling away the last few days of summer vacation with who-knows-what brand of mischief. But on this sweltering afternoon, Jackson-Wright is very much inside. He has something more important on his mind than stoop-sitting or street-running. He’s got a speech to prepare.
Tomorrow is the annual Tie Induction Ceremony for Prestige Academy, the charter school for boys on Thatcher Street, where Jackson-Wright has been getting his education since he was first enrolled there as a fifth-grader in 2008, the school’s inaugural year. Back then, Jackson-Wright had to go through his own Tie Presentation, and he knows as well as anyone how important the ceremony is.
See, the tie—which is worn by every Prestige student, along with uniform khakis and a button-down shirt—is more than just a tie. It’s a symbol of transformation, a banner of pride, and a constant reminder to the academy’s students of where they’re headed if they stay on the right path.
“The tie is about respect,” says Prestige founder and executive director Jack Perry. “If you allow kids to come to school without the tie, that means they don’t respect the uniform anymore. That turns into, ‘Well, do I need to respect my teachers?’ And that turns into, ‘Well, do I need to respect the work I have to do?’ The kids have to earn the right to wear that shirt and tie, which is why we have the ceremony.”
That’s why Jackson-Wright has been chosen to speak at the ceremony tomorrow morning. Standing in front of more than 300 parents and incoming fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-graders, he’s going to tell his story, because his story is the narrative to which Perry hopes every Prestige student aspires.
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