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Utopian Academy For The Arts| Georgia Approved Charter Middle School » Utopian Academy Scholars Honored For High Achievement

Utopian Academy Scholars Honored For High Achievement

Utopian Academy for the Arts has inducted 27 scholars into the National Junior Beta Club, a prestigious organization honoring students who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, and good behavior.

The scholars were chosen as the inaugural members of Utopian Academy’s new Beta Club chapter.Beta Club, which has been serving students for 80 years, is the country’s largest independent youth organization. It promotes scholarship, leadership, character, and community service. The organization has more than 350,000 members nationwide. Students can transfer their membership as they move to high school.

“In order to be a part of our chapter of the National Beta Club, students have to have a 90 percent or better grade point average and be free of disciplinary infractions,” said Raquel Jones, the  ​guidance counselor at Utopian Academy who also serves as co-sponsor for the Beta Club . “They also have to be students who have integrity and can represent their community. Character is very important.”

Beta Club members across Georgia are invited to attend an annual state leadership conference in Macon where they show off their artistic talents, leadership abilities, public speaking skills, and mastery of the school curriculum. They compete in quiz bowl games, banner design tasks, and chapter performance events. They also perform community service projects and receive tips on how to succeed in college.

“One of the main reasons for being in the Beta Club is to make sure you serve others,” Jones said. “We will have community service projects. Our students will participate in the Beta Club conference. We want them to have them to have an opportunity to interact with other Beta Club students from across the country.”

Utopian Academy scholars say they are excited to be named as inaugural members of the school’s Beta Club chapter. Four students have been chosen to serve as officers in the club. Music teacher Erica Thomas is the club’s other co-sponsor.

“It feels amazing,” Monica Daniel, a seventh grader said. She was named as the treasurer of Utopian Academy’s new chapter. “This feels like a new chapter in my life.”

Sydney Williams, an eighth grader with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, was named as club president. “It’s an honor to be able to sit with peers who are excited to learn and are motivated to get good grades,” she said.

Williams said she would like to see Utopian’s Beta Club chapter grow. “Beta Club is for everyone,” she said. “You just need to develop good study habits. You can’t be a lazy student or procrastinate when it comes to completing your assignments.”

Arkayla Napper, the new secretary of Beta Club agrees. She said that time management is essential to improving your grades. “I find time to study even though I am very active in school,” Napper said. “I am manager of the basketball team. I’m in broadcasting club and chorus. ”

Jabari Godfrey, the new vice president of Utopian’s Beta Club, said that being a good student takes hard work. If more students want to be inducted next year, they will have to be self-motivated to do well, he said. “You have to strive to do your best in whatever you do,” said Godfrey, a straight-A student. “If you have a goal, aim for that goal no matter what.”

Utopian Academy parents beamed with pride as they saw their scholars inducted into the club for high academic achievers.

“I was a Beta Club member when I was younger,” said Tiffany Woum, the mother of Jada Scandrett, a seventh grader. “I am very proud to see her cross over.”

Sherita Willis, the mother of eighth grade scholar, Mia Willis, said her daughter is also Beta “legacy.”

“This is her final year at Utopian,” Sherita Willis said of her daughter. “We are glad that she was able to be a part of this inaugural chapter. She is continuing the family legacy. Her two sisters and me were also in the Beta Club.”

Jones said that Beta Club membership is an accolade that looks great on an academic resume. The exposure to overnight conferences, service projects, and the duties of a Beta Club office can help students develop as leaders. “Giving them this leadership opportunity boosts their self-confidence,” Jones said. “It helps them to mature and grow.”

Seventh grade inductees: Jordan Blossomgame, Briana Christian, Monica Daniel, Emmanuela Emah, Xavier Foster, Jabari Godfrey, Alexys Lyons, Eric Mai, Jakai Yancey, Queen Isis Merck, Da’Ryah Peoples, Jaahlil Ryans, Jada Scandrett, Jordan Sims, Jailyn Sorrells, Kayla Stokes, and Starlis Thompson.

Eighth grade inductees: Lauren Allums, Aissata Diallo, Ronald Ford-Hales, Brittani Gates, Maia Jackson, Nia Parham, Mia Willis, Sydney Williams and member Arkayla Napper.

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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