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.



(page 2 of 4)

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When Prestige first opened its doors, Jackson-Wright was one of the academy’s 103 inaugural fifth-graders. The academy expects to have a student body of more than 400 boys in fifth through eighth grade by the end of this school year.

Perry, who grew up in a rough Brooklyn neighborhood and, he says, was “lucky not to become another statistic,” founded the tuition-free middle school for boys three years ago. It serves Wilmington and its surrounding communities. Through a rigorous, college-prep curriculum and academic culture, Prestige is designed for boys just like Jackson-Wright who live in underserved communities and are academically behind the national average.

“What we’re trying to do here is serious business,” says Perry.

So is Jackson-Wright’s speech. With less than 24 hours to go, he’s still a little nervous. This school year marks his last at Prestige, but he still isn’t used to the celebrity status he’s earned since he first walked the academy’s halls as a shy, fragile fifth-grader.

Sitting on the living room couch inside his home on East 17th Street, Jackson-Wright folds his hands over his well-pressed khaki slacks; his pale-blue oxford shirt crisp and unblemished. He’s smaller than most other kids his age, and his timid, younger self—the reticent kid who used to give up on schoolwork and socialization—shows through now and then.

Despite the lingering shyness that remains, Jackson-Wright is a changed boy. His father, Barnell, sits in a recliner across from his son, lost in a long soliloquy about the transformation.

“People see him and they know right away. It’s like, My god! Who is this kid? Because they know how he used to be,” says Barnell Wright. “All he ever wanted to do was run off and play. And he couldn’t hold a conversation; couldn’t communicate on paper. Now? He’s a totally different kid.”

Three years ago, Barnell—who is no longer married to Jackson-Wright’s mother—knew something had to change. His boy was 9, his reading and math skills were several years behind where they needed to be, and his confidence level was poor. For several years, Jackson-Wright had been attending Marion T. Academy, the now-defunct charter school that was housed in the same space that Prestige now operates.

“At Marion T., there was a total lack of anything. They just pushed Daivon from grade to grade while he kept going down and down and down. His confidence was just shattered,” says Barnell. “But then I heard about Mr. Perry. He’s from my hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y. And I knew this was a no-nonsense guy. I’m a no-nonsense guy. We’re the same age. And when I met him I thought, Definitely.”

The transition to Prestige wasn’t easy. The school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The school year runs 194 days. Homework is assigned every night, and that includes the additional imperative teachers place on parents to make sure their sons are reading for at least an hour every evening.

“I tell every parent that this will be the strictest school your son has ever been in,” says Perry. “We have a lot of processes in place, not because we want to control your kids, but because we’re giving them the type of structure that will help them be successful. And it works.”

During his first few months there, Jackson-Wright wasn’t convinced.

“I didn’t want to talk to anybody,” he says, taking deep breaths between sentences, still finding his footing as the unofficial Prestige spokesman. “I didn’t have any friends or anything. But after a while, everyone started to get to know me. But my confidence was still low because I knew I wasn’t doing the work as well as I can now. But it’s better now. I know I can achieve more and I know that I can do more. I can do better.”

To illustrate the point, Jackson-Wright likes to tell a story about his first year at the school. During an especially challenging math class, he excused himself from the room, went into the hallway, curled up against a wall and sobbed.

“I was just so frustrated,” he says. “All I could do was cry. I just couldn’t do any of the work.”

Barnell chimes in. “He was basically tapping into his own soul, asking himself, ‘Why can’t I get this? Everyone else can? Why can’t I?’ And then a teacher came up to him, and instead of just telling him to stop crying and get back in the room, she sat down with him and helped him work through it. She actually made him believe he could."
 

continues on page 3...

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February 2016

Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
43 The Green
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
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The Station Gallery
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Kennett Township Building
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Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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More information

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Hagley Museum
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Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

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1200 N DuPont Highway
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View map »

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Cost: Free

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The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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Cost: Call for information.

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Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
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Telephone: 302-629-6611x2446
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Cost: Depends on what you purchase

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30336 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Telephone: 302-945-3489
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Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church
500 McKennans Church Rd
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500 McKennans Church Rd
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The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

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View map »


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Cost: Free

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Kimmel Center - Commonwealth Plaza
300 S. Broad St.
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Show Less...

Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $0-14

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201 Hagley Creek Rd
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51 W Main St.
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Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
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Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Rd.
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6611 ext. 2540
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1101 Arch St.
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More information

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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

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Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


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More information

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Cost: $0-14

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201 Hagley Creek Rd
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View map »


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Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
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View map »


Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
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Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
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Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51W Main St.
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View map »


Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
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Cost: $15–$18

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The Secret Garden
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
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Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Cost: Free

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View map »


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Cost: $40

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277 N Keswick Ave
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Where:
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Where:
, DE

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »

More information

The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from Feb. 12–14 and 19–21. The show will feature highly interactive...

Cost: $13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

Guests can explore three floors of exhibitions in the Visitor Center, stroll along the river through dozens of historic structures from the Industrial Revolution, and explore the gardens and...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

Penn Museum opens the world premiere exhibition The Golden Age of King Midas—featuring ancient treasures on loan from the Republic of Turkey—with a spectacular daylong public...

Cost: $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
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For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society and CAMP Rehoboth will co-present "Tab Hunter Confidential" and "Portrait of a Serial Monogamist" as part of its annual Another Take...

Cost: $8

Where:
Metropolitan Community Church
19369 Plantation Rd.
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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"La Sylphide" shares the beautiful and romantic story of our hero, James—a young Scottish farmer who, on the eve of hid wedding, abandons his betrothed, Effie, after being...

Cost: $25

Where:
Salesanium School
1801 North Broom St.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Academy of International Ballet
Telephone: 1-866-908-5666
Contact Name: Denis Gronostayskiy
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Venture back with us for an evening where we re-imagine the Victorian Industrial Age as seen through our steam-powered, futuristic goggles.  Our biggest fundraiser of the year and all proceeds...

Cost: $100-$110

Where:
Smyrna Opera House
7 West South Street
Smyrna, DE  19977
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A spoiled orphan girl is sent to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moors and discovers renewed life, for herself and her sickly cousin, in bringing her dead aunt’s secret garden back to...

Cost: $15–$18

Where:
The Secret Garden
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
Telephone: 302-540-8561
Contact Name: Chris Everett
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Location: St. Mark’s High School, 2501 Pike Creek Road, Wilmington Time: Registration: 11:30 a.m. Race: 12:30 p.m. Fee: $25 (until Thursday, Feb. 11), $35 after and day of event...

Where:
, DE

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Location: Beebe Healthcare’s Medical Center, 424 Savannah Road, Lewes Date: Saturday, Feb. 13 (and the second Saturday of each month) Time: 9 a.m. Fee: Free For more...

Where:
, DE

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Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

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A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

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Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

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