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It is no secret that income inequality is a growing concern in our country. The gap between the richest and poorest among us is increasing at an alarming rate. While we can point to many reasons for that trend, it is clear that education remains the most reliable vehicle towards upward social mobility. Here in Florida, for instance, there is an undeniable correlation between income and FCAT test scores. Since most families are not in a position to pay tuition for private schools, we must explore every possible way to improve our public schools.
About ten years ago, I began volunteering my time at public charter schools in Miami. My desire to improve parental schooling options through choice and competition, coupled with my love of sports, placed me on a path which allowed me to help create SLAM Academy, a sports leadership and management public charter school in Little Havana. SLAM is located in one of the City’s most impoverished neighborhoods, and serves middle school and high school students seeking careers in the sports industry. The school opened its doors in 2013, with a 7-story state-of-the-art facility featuring a penthouse gymnasium in the shadows of Marlins Park, and services an overwhelmingly minority student population (over 80% of which qualify for free or reduced lunch). SLAM offers these students a unique educational model because it integrates national Common Core Standards and sports-related themes into a core curriculum of mathematics, language arts, science and social studies, while preparing students for careers in sports medicine, business, marketing, health and communications through elective coursework.
The demand has been as overwhelming as our initial success. SLAM currently has a waiting list of over 1,000 potential students. The school has also garnered significant national attention and has been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show, The Katie Couric Show, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, ABC Nightline and CNN. We are currently working with sports franchises and educational leaders to replicate SLAM in school districts throughout the Country, as we try to continue to prove that minority and low income students can compete and achieve when given an equal opportunity.
View additional photos of the Miami SLAM facility here.