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Class of 2016: Celebrating firsts and history at Confluence Charter Schools

Graduation is special for every school, but for the classes of 2016 at Confluence Charter Schools, it’s a different kind of special.

Grand Center Arts Academy will celebrate its first graduating class in school history on May 24. Confluence Preparatory Academy will celebrate its fifth graduating class on May 19.

Both schools are young, and both are making strides as public charter high schools in St. Louis.

The First Class
When Grand Center Arts Academy opened in 2010-2011 as a performing arts charter school, the students were sixth and seventh graders. Classes were held at Third Baptist Church in the Grand Center district.

In 2011-2012, GCAA moved to its current location, the Beaux Arts Building, across from Powell Symphony Hall. Once upon a time, GCAA had been a parking garage. High above windows and an archway facing Grand Boulevard, Carter Carburetor Corporation is engraved in stone.

Over the years, grade levels were added to grow into a full middle and high school for grades 6-12. The building is 10,000 square feet with seven floors of classroom and studio space for core academics such as math, communication arts, science and social studies, as well as dance, visual arts, theater and music. A few steps down the block is the renovated 102-year old Sun Theatre, a learning space and performance venue for GCAA that opened in late spring 2014. In its lifetime, the Sun Theatre changed names and served different entertainment purposes, then stood vacant and neglected for 40 years before it became an essential part of the school community.

In August 2015, those seventh graders become seniors.

“This graduating class is so very special. They are the trailblazers, and made a commitment to this school when so much was still just a vision,” said Dr. Matt Frederickson, head of school.

“The first graduating class is responsible for setting the standard, and these students have made us so proud. We look forward to their many accomplishments as they continue to represent Grand Center Arts Academy.”

GCAA has 103 graduates – 99 are seniors and four are juniors who are finishing high school early. Nearly half of the seniors have been with GCAA since the beginning. The class has nearly $500,000 in college scholarships; about 14 percent of students are eligible for the Missouri A+ Schools Program, a tuition assistance program for students to attend a two-year community college or trade school in the state of Missouri.

A handful of students are already forging ahead.

In December, GCAA celebrated its first two graduates – Antonio Mosley and Tyler Smith. Mosley started at GCAA when the school opened, and Smith had been homeschooled until his freshman year. Both studied theater. Mosley and Smith will accept their diplomas with their classmates. Mosley plans to attend The Meisner Center in Los Angeles in the fall, while Smith is taking a gap year to play junior hockey before going to college in 2017-2018.

Last month, Zykita Deal, who studies dance, was sworn into the Army Reserves. She’ll go to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in September, then to military police training. She has a dance scholarship at Tennessee State University, where she plans to major in forensic science in 2017.

The juniors who are graduating early all plan to attend college in the fall.

 

Five years of graduates
As Confluence Preparatory Academy gets ready for its fifth graduating class, the seniors have set examples for those who will follow in their footsteps.

“Our class of 2016 has a lot to be proud of,” said Mike Powers, principal. “As sophomores and juniors, many of them were responsible for promoting and developing school-wide incentives and activities for our Positive Behavior Intervention Supports program. Many of them participate in the Gateway2Change initiative to promote racial understanding and harmony.

“They’ve earned college credit as high school students through our dual-enrollment program with St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, and our boys’ basketball team had a 17-11 season, earning them the best record for a CPA basketball team.

“The students and our staff are looking forward to seeing them graduate and grow into young adults,” said Powers.

CPA has 110 seniors, and many of them attended a Confluence Academy school as a younger student. The class has $330,000 in college aid - $254,500 in scholarships and $78,000 in Missouri A+ eligibility. Most students plan to attend college, while some will join the military or a career-technical program. They have a range of interests for studies, such as biology, business, nursing, computers, psychology and cosmetology.

Where will they go to college?
The list of colleges and universities that accepted students from Confluence Prep and GCAA is lengthy – from local and regional colleges to schools across the country.

Post-secondary choices include St. Louis Community Colleges, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Saint Louis University, Webster University, Southern Illinois University, Harris-Stowe State University, Lindenwood University, University of Central Missouri, University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Missouri Western State University, Stephens College, Truman State University, Maryville University, Alabama A&M, Clark Atlanta University, DePaul University, Duke University, Rust College, Manhattan College, Boston Conservatory, Chicago College of Performing Arts, Los Angeles Meisner Academy, New York University and many, many others.

Celebrations
Confluence Preparatory Academy will have its commencement ceremony on May 19 at 6:00 p.m. at Harris-Stowe State University.

Grand Center Arts Academy will have its commencement ceremony on May 24 at 7:00 p.m. at the Sun Theatre.

GCAA is hosting a fundraiser, Limelight 2016, to honor the first graduating class “as students who will be engaged in their community as highly artistic, literate and passionate citizens.” Proceeds raised at the event will support the GCAA Fund, a nonprofit for long-term sustainability. Limelight 2016 is May 20 at 6:00 p.m. at the Sun Theater. Tickets are $75, available online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2539630

 

 

Photos

CPA seniors receive their caps and gowns, May 2016.
Mr. Powers, CPA principal, congratulates a 2015 graduate.
Tyler Smith and Antonio Mosley, GCAA's first graduates, December 2015.
Zykita Deal, GCAA senior, commits to military service after high school, spring 2016.