1) What is your name and what do you do?
My name is D. DeWayne Barker and I have been an educator for ten years. I have taught all levels of high school English, fourth-sixth grade reading and social studies, coached varsity boys basketball and served as a principal at a charter school for four years. I hold a BA degree in English and currently in the process of completing my M.Ed. in Educational Administration at Sam Houston State University.
2) Tell us about your school and what led you to start your own enterprise?
ROMEO Preparatory Academy is a college preparatory day and proposed boarding school designed to cater to the needs of African American males in grades 9-12. The mission of Romeo Preparatory Academy is to provide a first-class education and mentoring program where disadvantaged and under-served young men can reach their highest potential in every aspect. This mission will be accomplished through a strong educational program based upon a structured and rigorous curriculum supported by discipline and mutual respect.
The commitment and involvement of the students, parents, educators, and the community will be utilized to achieve these goals. Romeo Preparatory Academy will provide students with a rigorous course of study to ensure college readiness. All students will be prepared to excel at the collegiate level upon graduating. Students will be afforded an opportunity to take dual credit courses through Paris Junior College and as well as Advanced Placement courses through College Board.
The school will cover all associated costs including textbooks, fees, and exams. Students have the option of participating in football, basketball, track, step team, wrestling and as well as yearbook/newspaper, debate, choir and theater arts. Students are required to complete sixty hours of community service and must have an acceptance letter to a four year college or university in order to graduate. Our focus is not on standardized testing, but educating the “total” child to ensure college readiness.
I decided to delve into starting my own school due to the frustration level of teaching in the public school system. Our students are being short-changed because they are not being taught anything other than how to take and pass a standardized test. When students graduate, which many don’t, they are not prepared for collegiate studies and end spending a semester or two taking developmental courses which do not count toward and degree.
I think there is a better way to design educational programs and curriculums because in America the dropout rate is ridiculous, especially among African males. When I taught senior English, I was in total shock of how many students who could not read and write as they were just passed on because they played sports or because the teacher did not want to deal with them another year. I am not claiming to have a solution to the educational epidemic, but I do think there is a better way and at Romeo Preparatory Academy, we believe that all students can and will learn. Romeo Preparatory Academy is a school of choice and students have to make a commitment and want to be a part of our program.
3) What background do you possess that makes you the kind of influence that our kids need to have in their lives?
I have ten years of experience working with at-risk students and have a passion for helping and educating students, especially African American males. I went through a lot as a kid and managed to turn many negatives into positives. It was extremely hard growing up without any parents and I am so thankful for my grandmother who saw fit to take me in as a newborn baby to care for me. The many disappointments, neglect, mistreatment, rejection and abuse I encountered have put a burning desire in my heart to help others. Often times experience is the best teacher and experience can never be found in a textbook.
4) What have been the greatest challenges you’ve encountered while running your own school?
I cannot speak on any challenges while running my own school since the school does not open for students until September 2013. However, the greatest challenge in the startup process is selling it to the African American community. The biggest question I get is: “Why all boys?” And when I show them statistics pertaining to Black males and the education arena their whole demeanor changes. Also, I find myself educating parents because many of them simply do not know.
5) What do you think black boys need in order to be successful in this world?
The main thing is for someone to show them love and acceptance. The greatest gift anyone can possess is love. They also need positive role models and mentors that are not on television; they need someone they can sit down and talk face-to-face to. Our boys need stability, structure, and positive reinforcement. Additionally, our boys need a strong and rigorous educational program that will challenge them and prepare them for success once they graduate from high school and matriculate into their collegiate studies.
6) Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Your Black World audience?
I have 20 FULL RIDE scholarships (room & board included) for the 2013-2014 school year at Romeo Preparatory Academy. These scholarships are FIRST COME-FIRST SERVE and will be given to disadvantaged and under-served males entering grades 9-12 next fall. Please email me at [email protected] for further information.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about College.” To have Dr Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.