Berkeley Academy Changes Lives for Deserving Scholars

The opportunity to be a Berkeley Academy scholar would be an honor for any student seeking guidance in preparation for college. However, for 39 rising seventh grade scholars from Hillsborough County, the opportunity to spend six weeks on Berkeley’s campus with a team of teachers and mentors was the experience of a lifetime that will continue to pay dividends for years to come. These highly talented, yet economically challenged, students each share a passion to go to college - Berkeley Preparatory School wants to make sure they get there while preventing the summer learning slide so common in their communities.

The Berkeley Academy is a free, signature service program offered by Berkeley aimed at helping highly motivated, low-income students in the Tampa Bay community reach their unique potential and achieve their dream of going to college. The Berkeley Academy is committed to ensuring that all of its students have the preparation, skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college and beyond. This is accomplished through a six-year program that starts the summer before a scholars’ seventh grade year and ends upon completion of high school.
The inaugural summer session for the Berkeley Academy just concluded with a bittersweet sense of accomplishment for all involved. The session was highlighted by numerous hands-on experiences for the scholars, many of which were a first for these eager learners. Highlights from the summer included a field trip to USF St. Petersburg to experience college life firsthand; U.S. Representative Kathy Castor taught a lesson in civics; scholars got a behind-the-scenes look into entrepreneurship from Burger Monger franchise founder Jake Hickton; and all of the scholars were exposed to a variety of enrichment and athletic activities (most of which were created by UD students) that allowed them to discover new talents and ambitions. In addition, the scholars benefitted from the generosity of others through book donations, free eye exams and glasses, and many learned to swim for the first time. The scholars had an incredible support team of 20 staff members and approximately 50 Upper Division student volunteers and many other members of the Berkeley community.
The scholars and their teachers and volunteers shed tears of joy as they temporarily said goodbye following the summer session capped off with a well-deserved day at Walt Disney World on their final day. The day appropriately served as a culmination of six-weeks worth of intense learning, new experiences and newly discovered passions and talents. “We are called on to make a positive difference in the world and, as a community, we were able to do that,” said Kim Lawless, Director of the Berkeley Academy. “This experience was equally rewarding for all involved: for the scholars as well as their mentors, teachers and all volunteers.”
The inaugural group of scholars will continue to be mentored and guided over the course of six years on weekends so that the learning cycle never ends. Next year, the Berkeley Academy will welcome a new class of scholars to join them.


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