Striving for Excellence
Striving for excellence
For already stressed families, the pandemic intensifies a need to address educational inequities and help Syracuse’s youth succeed in school.
ntering the little house on Douglas Street last fall was like stepping into a beehive where there is always movement and work being done.
Past the sunroom was a black-and-white tiled entry room with a keyboard, framed photographs and certificates, and trophies lined up on the mantle of a large fireplace. Around the corner were four children who are always busy, whether they are taking an online political party test, painting with watercolors, calling each other out for not sitting up straight, reading every book in the bookshelf or practicing ninja moves. The walls of this dining-room-turned-classroom were covered in their artwork. The smell of curry drifted from the kitchen while a tiny dog trotted from room to room.
This was the birth of the Academy of Excellence.
Joshua King, a former long-term substitute teacher in the Syracuse City School District, created the Academy last year because he was not satisfied with the education that his two younger brothers, whom he is raising, were receiving.
But it didn’t turn into the full-fledged schooling program it is today for brothers Jayden and Javonte, along with dozens of other students, until the pandemic hit last year.
When schools went virtual in March 2020, King formed the Academy of Excellence to support families like his. With many parents working full time and few with any formal training as teachers, King said students were asked to hold themselves accountable for their education.
“If your kid is learning at home all day by themself and no one’s monitoring them, most students can’t learn by themselves or keep themselves motivated. I get how difficult it is,” King said. “I’ve been there. The first year that I homeschooled [Jayden and Javonte], they were essentially home all day by themselves. The tutor would come in and do her portions, then I’d pick up when I got home from work.”
But the challenges went beyond a lack of supervision. According to Census Reporter half of the students in the Syracuse city schools are living in poverty, which meant staples of learning such as laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots, and the ease of interacting with teachers in a virtual manner were not always there.