Are all of the scholars at Valiant Cross Academy, which serves young men in middle and high school, truly academically and intellectually gifted? Consistent with national trends, about 10 percent of the scholars score in the top percentile on achievement and intelligence tests. Yet, the school leaders provide gifted services to ALL 150 scholars..
On Dexter Avenue in Montgomery, between the spot where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus in 1955 and where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King started the modern Civil Rights Movement at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, sits Valiant Cross Academy. At this private Christian school, the founders, brothers Anthony and Frederick Brock, believe all of its scholars—not students—are young, gifted and Black. Not only are the scholars all young, gifted and Black; they are also all boys and young men. This in itself is historic and revolutionary: a school that educates young men of color with the mindset that they are gifted scholars and leaders.
“We wanted to create a school where the boys would be celebrated and not just tolerated,” said Anthony Brock, Head of School. “We believe it is more of an opportunity gap than an achievement gap.”
Are all of the scholars at Valiant Cross Academy, which serves young men in middle and high school, truly academically and intellectually gifted? Consistent with national trends, about 10 percent of the scholars score in the top percentile on achievement and intelligence tests. Yet, the school leaders provide gifted services to ALL 150 scholars, as follows:
Valiant Cross Academy has a three-part spiritual service for the first hour of the school day. Scholars begin their day in the common area with Bible Study, led by Oscar Berry III, Dean of Culture for High School. Mr. Berry is a former political operative who worked for US Representative Terri Sewell in both Washington, D.C., and Alabama. In a voice that is reminiscent of a professional public speaker, Mr. Berry breaks down a Bible verse each morning and relates it to the scholars’ lives.
“In Matthew chapter eight and verse twenty-two, Jesus said, ‘Let the dead bury their dead, and come and follow me.’ How does that apply to us today? In order to be successful, you’re going to have to decide to leave some negative things, some habits, and even some people behind. You have to leave the baggage behind. Sacrifice is your ticket to get to the next level— academically, athletically, and in character.”
After the thirty minute Bible Study, scholars go upstairs to “Village” in a beautiful sanctuary, complete with splendid, century-old stained-glass windows. The former Dexter Avenue Methodist Church serves as the Middle School campus. The High School is located on the campus of Troy University of Montgomery, about two miles away.
Anthony Brock begins Village with a call-and-response, true to African tradition, “I love you, scholars!”
The scholars respond in unison, “We love you, Mr. Brock!”
Mr. Brock then reminds the scholars to be valiant and honorable men of God: to respect their teachers, work collaboratively with their classmates, and study hard. On any given day, city, state, and national business, political, media, or civic leaders attend Chapel to give scholars a word of encouragement. Then, rows of scholars, sixth graders interspersed with seventh and eighth graders, go to the altar, kneel reverently and commune with God.
The final part of the service is Affirmations, which is generally held outdoors, weather permitting. As scholars leave the chapel to go outside, each teacher and guest greets each scholar with a handshake or fist bump, intentionally makes eye contact, and says, “I love you!”
During Village Affirmations, scholars take turns fulfilling various leadership roles, including troop, pledge, Bible, and prayer leaders.
A favorite troop drill is when the leader calls out, “Who’s got your back? Who’s got your back?”
The group responds, “I got your back! I got your back!”
As scholars line up by homeroom to begin class, they are again greeted by teachers who firmly shake their hands and say, “Have a great day!”
As if the morning service does not provide lots of love and encouragement from teachers, administrators, and the community, scholars also have access to a resident mental health counselor. The associate-licensed counselor provides social/emotional counseling to scholars on both the Middle and High School campuses on a daily basis.
The counselor provides the following services:
- Individual Counseling
- Group Counseling Services
- School-wide Mental Health Screening
- Mental Health Referrals, if necessary
From January 2020, qualified tenth graders have been enrolling in college level classes at Troy University Montgomery. The High School is located on the campus of Troy University Montgomery, and now Valiant Cross Academy scholars actually sit in classes taught by university professors and interact with collegiate classmates.
Based on results from the Fall administration of the Performance Series, school leaders have taken the following steps:
- Accelerated several High School scholars in Mathematics and/or English Language Arts
- Enrolled gifted High School scholars in Honors and Advanced Placement courses via Edgenuity
At the five-year-old school, Valiant Cross Academy leaders are implementing an interest-based survey to help scholars identify both their interests and learning styles. Mentors regularly come to the school to speak with whole groups of scholars. School leaders are looking to formalize this program so mentors can develop one-on-one relationships with scholars to guide them into professional careers.
Established career counseling programs include the following:
- The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation provides pilot-training scholarships to qualified Valiant Cross Academy scholars, aged sixteen and older. The scholars go on, ultimately, to earn their private pilot license. The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation also provides classes at the Valiant Cross Academy High School campus on the fundamentals of being a world-class pilot. This is crucial, as only 3 percent of employees in the aviation industry are African Americans.
- CISCO Networking Academy provides extensive, daily, hands-on training in cyber security to High School scholars.
- Synovus Bank provides yearlong classes on Financial Literacy to Valiant Cross Academy scholars.
- The Civil Air Patrol has a formal long-term, ongoing mentoring relationship with Valiant Cross Academy scholars.
During the hour-long lunch period, Valiant Cross Academy teachers rotate leading the following enrichment activities at both the Middle and High School campuses:
- Authentic Learning (Monday)
- Character Development (Tuesday)
- African American History and Culture (Wednesday)
- Critical Thinking Games Day (Thursday)
- Field Trips/Early Dismissal on Friday
Please go to the Valiant Cross Academy website to learn more: http://www.valiantcross.org/