For more news and articles about CFA Phoenix, please click here.
Posted On: 2017-11-06 02:58 PM
Cara O'Donnell, Edkey® Inc.
Valley residents might remember the Thomas J. Pappas School in Phoenix – an elementary school that was dedicated to serving a population of children that needed special attention.
The Pappas School closed nearly 10 years ago, but its mission lives on. Today, the Children First Leadership Academy, a K-8 charter school that is part of the Edkey® Inc. portfolio of charter schools in Arizona, continues to serve not just the population that the Pappas School served, but also the greater community as well.
"We're a unique school," principal Karen Crang said. "One of the things that we focus on here is providing our students with consistent adults in their lives so they can learn to build healthy relationships and gain all the necessary tools they need to have a successful life outside their home life. We work really hard to build students' resilience in building them up and showing them how to be a leader, make positive choices."
Leadership is a term that flows through every classroom at Children First Leadership Academy. Regardless of the grade, students receive instruction in leadership, ethics and the foundational principles of wise decision-making. Much of the school's curriculum comes from The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, the landmark best-selling book Stephen R. Covey.
"We are a 'Leader In Me' school," Crang said. "Franklin Covey adopted our campus for the past four years. It's embedded in the curriculum. Students track their progress and their leadership goals. Leadership is the culture of this school. They learn that this place is a little different, and so they have opportunities to do different things."
Part of what makes Children First Leadership Academy different is its devotion to its students. Its 250 students come from across the Valley – from the far West Valley to the East Valley – to attend classes.
"We accept everybody," Crang said. "Everybody who comes here will receive all the benefits we provide. We focus on underprivileged, high-poverty students. All of our students are below the poverty line. They get breakfast, lunch and dinner provided for them. Some of our students are homeless, or moving from hotel to hotel. They come here because we're the one stable thing. They never know if they're going to be moving. School is the one place that's stable no matter what."
"Because of the special needs of the students, there is a clothing room at Children First where students can find clothing for themselves or their families. They don't need to worry about getting a meal. Instead, they can focus on academics."
"We see the product of their work at the end of the year," Crang said. "We'll have a leadership day. Students will write a speech and speak in front of the community. They'll talk about their transformation. It's mind-blowing to see. It makes you want to cry. Last year there were several who got up and sang – the most beautiful voices – and they had so much confidence."
Many Children First graduates move on to Sequoia Choice Precision School, another Edkey® Inc. charter school, for high school.
"A lot of students go on to our sister school for high school," Crang said. "It's always rewarding to see how they're doing academically. We had one graduate ask us to write a recommendation so she can take college classes while she's still in high school."
To learn more about Children First Leadership Academy or to donate to the foundation, visit cfaphoenix.org.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.