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Utopian Academy For The Arts| Georgia Approved Charter Middle School » Utopian Academy Scholars Participate in Steve Harvey Mentoring Program

Utopian Academy Scholars Participate in Steve Harvey Mentoring Program

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Ten scholars from Utopian Academy for the Arts joined more than 200 young men from across the nation at the Steve Harvey Mentoring Program National Camp experience this month.
The 10th annual National Camp event, which was held from June 14-18 in The Rock, GA challenged middle and high school males age 13-18 growing up in homes without fathers to gain the confidence to succeed and be role models in their communities.
Utopian Academy students served as student counselors for the event and camp participants.
Scholar Eric Mai, who attended the camp two years in a row, said he was honored to be selected as a peer leader.
“I was a junior counselor,” said Mai, who is now a rising freshmen at Cristo Rey in Atlanta. “I helped out around camp and behind the scenes with the mentees. Last summer, I was one of the mentees.”
Through sessions led by Steve Harvey and a variety of male mentors, including celebrity guests, campers learned the coping skills to navigate adolescent issues, build life skills, focus on their education, and empower their futures. Harvey and his guests shared the principles of manhood, dream building, and more to help young men begin to realize their dreams.
Mentoring sessions also included physical activity. Members of the U.S. Army started the day
with 5 a.m. physical training to get the young men moving and eager to learn. In a session about dressing for success and thinking positively about the future, campers received free ties from Design Your Tie.
“I have worked very closely with The Steve Harvey Mentoring Program since it was founded in 2009,” said Dr. Artesius Miller, founder of Utopian Academy. “I was instrumental in helping to organize and lead the outreach as a friend and employee of Steve Harvey. I am honored that our scholars at Utopian Academy have been invited to participate in the camp as both leaders and mentees for four years in a row.”
Utopian Academy scholars say they enjoy interacting with Harvey at the camp.
“Steve Harvey is a very charismatic man who is fun to be around,” Mai said. “He teaches you about focusing on the future. You learn so much at the camp about yourself. I’ve met people from across the country, including California, New York, Illinois and Washington D.C.”
Since 2009, the Steve Harvey Mentoring Program for Young Men has reached and impacted over 1,500 young men. It also provides services for their families. The mothers of the mentees attend a concurrent Parent Program, which offers seminars on family communication and teen issues, health and wellness activities, financial literacy, and applying to college.
“I have always tried to use my platform to serve my community,” Steve Harvey said in a statement about the National Camp. “I am indebted to the panel of role models donating their time and our sponsors that have allowed us to host this camp experience for seven years now. Seeing our mentees grow into fine and respectable young men, with many returning to camp to volunteer makes it all worth it.”
The Steve Harvey Mentoring Program is supported by Choice Hotels, which is its largest donor and partner. In addition to providing complimentary hotel stays at nearby Choice Hotels locations for the mothers of participants, Harvey Foundation staff and volunteers, Choice Hotels has contributed more than $250 million to the Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation in less than two years.
The annual Steve Harvey Mentoring Program for Young Men National Camp, and the Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation also receive support from the U.S. Army, State Farm, Ford, AT&T through AT&T Aspire, the company’s signature education initiative focused on school success and career readiness, and Walgreen’s.
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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