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Utopian Academy For The Arts| Georgia Approved Charter Middle School » Utopian Academy Scholar Spends Saturdays Studying At Morehouse College


Utopian Academy Scholar Spends Saturdays Studying At Morehouse College


While his peers spend Saturdays sleeping late, overloading on video games and playing outside with friends, seventh grader Xavier Foster is hard at work. He takes Saturday classes at Morehouse College as a student in the iSTEM program.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Xavier learns how to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics to conduct research experiments and find solutions to real world problems. At iSTEM, students in grades 6-8 study advanced content in science that hasn’t been taught yet at their local schools.

“I wanted to be in iSTEM because this is something that I could do early on to get more practice in the field of science,” Xavier said. “I didn’t want to have to wait to learn this stuff.”

iSTEM’s Saturday Academy is held between September and April. Students in the three-year program are mentored by industry leaders in STEM fields and attend classes taught by college professors. The goal of the program is to expose more minority students to careers in math and science. Students discuss scientific advancements, case studies, and attend a five-week summer session where they get experience in an STEM environment.

Xavier’s mother Deedra Smith said the iSTEM program is helping her son to develop as a scholar.

“They are not just teaching him about science; they touch on every subject,” Smith said. “It’s an amazing program. I can see the growth in him. I’m so proud of him. What he is doing there it is starting to reflect in his school work at Utopian.’’

Smith said her son is very interested in technology.
Xavier took time in between homework and Saturday Academy at Morehouse to talk about his experience as a part-time “college” student.

Q. Why give up your Saturdays to study at Morehouse College?
A. We don’t do much on Saturday. We are just wasting brain power. This is just a healthy diet for me as a student.

Q. What do you like about science and math?
A. They are my favorite subjects. Science is pretty much the world around us. Everything that we do or use basically involves science from the cell phones to classroom tables. Math goes along with science. You need to have mathematical equations to solve problems in science.

Q. Do you want to have a career in the science fields?
A. I want to be a pulmonologist, a doctor who treats issues with the lungs. I have asthma. It would feel good to help others who have asthma. I know what it feels like because I have gone through it.

Q. How did you hear about the iSTEM program at Morehouse College?
A. My mother told me about it. She is the main reason that I am in this program. I have to thank my pastor because he got me into it, too.

Q. Do you think other Utopian students would like the iSTEM program?
A. Yes, but they have to be ready because there is a lot of work you have to do. At iSTEM classes, it is not just book work. You go in depth. You do activities like conducting experiments. Last Saturday, we tested the theory of gravity with balloons and studied their orbit. You also learn how to write scientific papers about your results in your own words.

Q. What’s the best thing about being at Morehouse on a Saturday?
A. The classes and the free food that they give us.

Q. How does it feel to be on a college campus at your age?
A. It feels exciting. I hope to be there soon. I’m getting a chance to see what the campus looks like and to meet people who work and go to school there.

Q. Do you think you would like to attend Morehouse College someday?
A. Yes. It’s a single-gender school. That would allow me to focus on my education. I wouldn’t have to worry about any nonsense while I am there. One of our teachers went to Morehouse. Mr. Moore, he’s like the bomb teacher. Our executive director, Mr. Miller, went to Morehouse, too.

  • This article is very important for all scholars to read, because this will give them a step in the right direction about the college life. I know this wonderful opportunity given to Xavier continue him on the right path for his education. I would love to thank the Mr. Miller for such a job well done he’s done with his scholars at UAFA. With that being said I would also like to thank the staff at UAFA and Morehouse College.

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August 31, 2015August 31, 2015
RIVERDALE - When 300 students at Utopian Academy for the Arts reported to classes last week, there was no sign on the lawn letting them know that they had reached the right place. The name of the school had been removed by order of the City of Riverdale.This week the sign is still bare.The City of Riverdale has prohibited Utopian from using its school sign to welcome visitors or identify the building until administrators secure a business license. School officials, however, maintain that Utopian is a public school so a business license is not necessary. The debate has caused the school to accrue fines in the hundreds of dollars for violating city code. Administrators say the fees and threats are just another attempt to “bully” Utopian into pulling out of Riverdale.“They don’t want people to know that a school exists at 6630 Camp Street,” said Artesius Miller, executive director of Utopian. “They have stripped us naked and said basically ‘You all will not have anything so that people will know that you are even here’.”Similar tactics last year resulted in delaying the opening of school for more than a week. A Clayton County fire marshal denied administrators, teachers, and students the right to access the building saying that Utopian needed a last minute inspection among other things to occupy the premises. Utopian lost 80 students after its delayed opening.Utopian’s rocky start inspired legislation to protect state-approved public charter schools from similar stall tactics. The "Utopian Academy for the Arts Act," which went into effect in July, prohibits local governments from requiring public charter schools approved and inspected by officials with the state Department of Education to be forced to obtain any other licenses from local government entities to operate their school.The law does not protect a charter school’s signage, however.In the weeks before classes began this school year, a City of Riverdale code enforcement officer left a violation notice on Utopian’s door warning administrators to take action immediately: “Remove banner until permit is issued and apply for a business license.” Miller said that a member of the Clayton County School board advised him that other county schools in Riverdale are not required to have a sign permit or a business license. “Every time that we have attempted to have some type of signage, we were told that we needed a permit or we were being fined because we are not affiliated with the Board of Education in Clayton County,” he said. [columns] [column half][pullquote left]

Where Is Utopian Academy for the Arts? City Prohibits School From Using Sign[/pullquote][/column] [column half]

“It got really nasty,” Miller said of a recent surprise visit from code enforcement before school began."

Miller said that he has received calls and notes from the city warning that Utopian has accrued fees in the hundreds of dollars for violating city business license and sign codes. “It got really nasty,” Miller said of a recent surprise visit from code enforcement before school began. “The guy came and tossed the [fee list] in the face” of a school supporter.Miller took video footage of the visit that shows a code enforcement officer telling him and a school supporter that an inspection of the school’s signage was necessary because “the Georgia Department of Education does not look for stuff like this on buildings.”For the second year in a row, Miller turned to the State Charter Schools Commission for reinforcement. Miller got a letter explaining to the city that schools authorized by the commission are indeed public schools, not businesses.“Utopian Academy for the Arts is a public charter school authorized by the SCSC- a state level authorizing entity under the authority of the state Board of Education,” wrote Gregg Stevens, general counsel for the commission.“Accordingly, Utopian Academy for the Arts should at all times be treated like a public school with the privileges, rights, and obligations afforded thereto …” Utopian opened in August 2014. It was denied the right to exist by the Clayton County School board in 2011, 2012, and 2013 when the district rejected its charter application. The local denial was over-ruled by the state in October 2013. The state Charter Schools Commission granted Utopian Academy the authority to serve kids for five years as a state charter school. It was the first charter school to win approval from the new commission.[/column] [/columns] State Rep. Valencia Stovall, who supported the opening of Utopian in Clayton and co-sponsored the new law protecting charter schools from harassment, said it was “disheartening” to learn that Utopian is still having trouble with local government.“They should be treated as any other public school opening in the city,” Stovall said. “Instead, they have been hit from both sides from the City of Riverdale and the Clayton County School Board.” Stovall said that in addition to racking up fines from the city, Clayton Schools is exercising its right to charge Utopian much higher rent than the building’s earlier tenant. Utopian pays $3,000 a month to use the building compared to the Riverdale Development Authority, which had a lease allowing it to pay $1 annually for 20 years.School leaders say they refused to be forced out of Riverdale by local leaders who see them as competition. “Being in this fight for so long has been a tedious journey for me not only as a board member, but also a parent,” said Sharon Daniel, who chairs Utopian’s governing board. “We will not give up. We will educate the City of Riverdale.Utopian is a public school. We have a right to be here.” CLICK HERE FOR THIS RELEASE IN A DOWNLOADABLE FORMAT