As two students face off for free style Friday, the sound of the beat takes over the room. Knowing there could only be one winner, the students battle with rhymes for the weekly crown.
The competition is just one of the ways Memphis Grizzlies Prep students, teachers and administrators break the traditional classroom mold.
Located in the old Federal Reserve building, teachers and administrators at Memphis Grizzlies Preparatory Charter are working to enrich students by emphasizing the school’s core values: responsibility, integrity, courage, commitment, grit and excellence.
The Memphis Grizzlies Foundation provides substantial financial support for the charter school in addition to state and federal funds. The Grizzlies Foundation support ensures the school has the tools it needs, as well as providing a student mentoring program.
Seventh-grade student Neko Davis explained how the school has influenced his life positively, while also getting him away from the reality facing him in his own under-served neighborhood.
Using a system that involves 20 percent instruction and 80 percent interaction,the school breaks away from the traditional model of teaching students in a lecture-style class. Students are paired with a shoulder-partner, so they learn to work as a team while also maximizing the resources around them.
The teachers and staff try to instill values that students will carry over to their next school and throughout life. To facilitate a smoother transition into high school, Grizzlies Prep academic advisor Missy Couch works with students to help them make the best decision when choosing a high school to attend.
“We start the process in the first weeks of eighth grade,” Couch said. “We also have a high school fair with approximately 12 schools.”
Last year was the first year a class of students was promoted into high school. “This year 25 percent of the students are applying to private schools,” Couch said. “All students who applied to Power Center Academy got accepted.”
While the ideas that the school emphasizes can be seen at work in the classroom, they also extend into the values and practices students carry into the real world. For example, each student is encouraged to read one million words over the course of the semester for accelerated reading.
Eighth grade scholar Jalen Bogard, who has already been accepted into Middle College Prep, a college prep high school offering college level courses, said that the core values emphasized has helped him grow as a student.
“I think I am a better person because of these values, like integrity, for instance,” Jalen said. “It influenced me to be a better person and act like I have home training.”
Jalen also described how Grizzlies Prep helped pull out his strengths in the classroom and gave him a direction to head in for his future.
“Grizzlies Prep guided me into it by showing me my creative problem solving skills,” Jalen said. “Grizzlies Prep pushes you to do great things and helps you excel in scholastics.”
Lincoln Johnson is a sixth grade student in his first year, and he has already seen progress with his grades.
“I like that I came here with a low average, and they helped me grow. They teach you different then other schools,” the sixth grader said. “The teachers try harder.”
Lincoln also elaborates on how the values being taught at Grizzlies Prep help him to keep working hard to improve himself.
“Commitment helps me be on time and be committed to school.” Lincoln said. “Grit is mostly when times get tough, keep trying, and that helps me a lot.”