Durable SkillsEducation Policy and Advocacy

Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy: A HBCU before the HBCU

Having a blog like GratefulEd allows us to be informed about all the latest goings-on in the education space. We recently learned about Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy. It’s a school in our own backyard of Denver, Colorado, which emphasizes ‘Blackness, inclusion, and interdisciplinary education’. And, we had to write about it.

Beyond the Classroom

In order to aid students of color in school, Smith Academy models the experiences they might find at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). To improve excellence and connections across cultures, the academy seeks to equip scholars with the critical and creative thinking necessary to succeed in their life pursuits and careers on a global scale.

To achieve this goal, they have 4 core values:

  • Perform like a Leader
  • Act like a Global Citizen 
  • Create like a Visionary
  • Think like a CEO

Serving the Community

Warriors for High Quality Schools initiated the idea for the school. This association was set up by Black parents and sports coaches in far northeast Denver to draw attention to the differences between schools in their neighborhood and the rest of Denver.

The Denver metro school hopes to improve education for Black students in the area by creating an environment where Blackness is emphasized to develop students’ sense of pride in their identity, ensuring that every aspect of the school is inclusive of students (regardless of their native language or learning style), and linked to academic disciplines.

There is a persistent erasure of the Black experience, of Latinx and indigenous experiences in this nation and world. Our focus is to really center the experience of those of us who have been marginalized and minoritized. We are not, by nature of our existence, ‘less than.’ But our stories have not been valued in the same ways. Our school’s existence is just an act of resilience and resistance to oppressive structures in society. This is a sanctuary, really, a safe space for our scholars to be all that they are, and to grow, to challenge themselves, to challenge one another, to accomplish the goals that they have.” Shakira Abney-Wisdom, Principal of Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy

The Importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in K-12 Education

The city of Denver has approximately 93,000 students, of which about 13% are African American, 53% are Hispanic, and just under 1% are Native American. In contrast to 25% of students in Denver Public Schools who are white, students of color have not always received the same quality education. It is imperative that we invest in and serve all of our students.

Education system change can be a powerful lever in building a world where all individuals can thrive. Addressing systemic racism in the structure, policies, and practices of our education system is not only the right thing to do but also a critical part of building our talent and leadership pipelines.

The founding class had their first day of school on August 23, 2021, and we can’t wait to see the great things these students do in our local community and across the world!

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