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Higher Ground Academy moving to Metro Deaf building

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Calvin

School shuffle means that 19-year-old charter school will open second campus in Como neighborhood next fall

Higher Ground Academy (HGA) will open a second campus in the Como neighborhood in fall 2019.

The K-12 charter school currently at 1381 Marshall Ave. will be moving into the facility at Brewster and Pascal that Metro Deaf School intends to vacate at the end of 2018. Metro Deaf School is moving to 1125 Energy Park Dr.

“This is really an opportunity for us to serve our students better,” said Principal Dr. Samuel Yigzaw.
Higher Ground will spend the spring and summer next year renovating the space, converting smaller, 1-on-1 spaces into about 18 larger classrooms suitable for grades seven and up, according to Yigzaw. There will also be smaller classrooms available for group work.

Photo right: Higher Ground Academy (HGA) will open a second campus in the Como neighborhood in fall 2019 at the facility at 1471 Brewster St. that Metro Deaf School is currently in. Metro Deaf intends to move at the end of 2018 to 1125 Energy Park Dr. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

‘Cramped’ at current building
HGA initially applied with its authorizer in 2013 to expand its academic program to a second location, with the intention to move the younger grades.

Driving the move for the charter school is the desire for more space, and greater flexibility for programming, pointed out Yigzaw. The new location will offer this and the ability to add students. High on the list of desires is more labs and open space. The new facility has a gym that is not available at 1381 Marshall Ave.

“We are cramped here,” stated Yigzaw. “Now with a larger space, we should be able to bring in more opportunities to our students.”

He added, “Higher Ground is an environmentally friendly school, and we want students to grow in sustainability towards the environment. Proximity to Como Park will be a very good opportunity for us.”
In the fall of 2019, about 300-350 students will move to the second campus. The plan is to eventually grow to 500 students there.

Culturally responsive environment

Higher Ground Academy’s mission to “create a socially committed, morally responsible and ethnically diverse learning environment that values students individually and collectively.”

The school currently serves 760 black and East African students. The school has a low teacher-student ratio of 18-1, and 95 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. HGA is authorized by Audubon Center of the North Woods.

This vision and purpose of Higher Ground Academy is to encourage student’s maximum intellectual and leadership development to meet 21st century educational standards of education. In order to graduate, all students must have evidence of acceptance for a college place.

The school bills itself as “a college prep school that strives to educate our students in a culturally responsive environment,” according to Yigzaw.

Photo left: “Higher Ground is an environmentally-friendly school, and we want students to grow in sustainability towards the environment. Proximity to Como Park will be a very good opportunity for us,” stated Principal Dr. Samuel Yigzaw. (Photo submitted)

HGA emerged from Executive Director Bill Wilson’s belief that charter schools offer greater flexibility to serve students struggling in the traditional public school system. The former St. Paul city council member and state Commissioner of Human Rights was joined early in the school’s development by Dr. Samuel Yigzaw, then a University of Minnesota graduate student. Their shared passion for serving black students falling behind in traditional public schools has been the school’s driving force throughout its history.

The school opened in the fall of 1999 for kindergarten to ninth grade students. An additional grade year was added each year until it became a K-12 school in the fall of 2002. The school has almost a 100 percent graduation rate.

While HGA has always catered to black students, as time went on the demographics changed from being predominantly African-American to predominantly East African students.

Some of the school’s students have recently immigrated, some are first-generation immigrants but have been in the United States for a period, and some were born in the United States but still share the culture of their immigrant family. In addition to English being new to many students, formal education itself is new.

HGA’s leadership is not hierarchical but is instead vertical. Under the guidance of the principal and executive director, leadership is distributed to grade-level team leaders who take the place of an assistant principal.

The tenets of Higher Ground Academy are that all children can learn; that children learn all of the time; that experience teaches immediately; and that expectations are built on experience.

More information on the school can be found at www.hgacademy.org.




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