AN A+ EFFORT
Valiant Cross Academy is changing the world, one scholar at a time, and area businesses are helping this non-profit school succeed.
When Valiant Cross Academy started in 2015 it was a unique educational opportunity for 30 boys. It has now has grown into a life-changing experience for 90 scholars as of this fall, and the school shows no signs of stopping, with a waiting list of more than 100 young men who hope to join the student body, and plans are actively underway for a new High School program in 2018-19.
The all-male private school, located in downtown Montgomery, began with a class of 30 sixth-grade boys. Its founders, Anthony Brock, who is Principal, and his brother Frederick, who acts as Director of Operations, literally had to go door-to-door in the Washington Park Neighborhood to talk to families and sell them on the idea for a new school concept. Of course a strong academic program is a cornerstone, but from the beginning the idea has been to focus on developing the whole man. The school’s website lists the qualities of a Valiant Cross Man: courageous, righteous, committed, loving. “One thing we are adamant about is giving them a strong spiritual foundation,” Anthony Brock said. “And we are teaching them how to be men, and we are teaching confidence—so they’ll be ready to go anywhere and compete.”
Anthony and Frederick grew up in Montgomery, with Anthony attending Lanier High School and Frederick going to Jeff Davis High School in order to play football. When the boys graduated, Anthony went to Alabama State University to get his degree in education, and began teaching and working in Autauga County Schools, as well as coaching junior high football. He eventually became a Principal in the Autauga County School system and was in charge of Prattville’s alternative school.
When he became involved in a mentorship program, Brother to Brother and Sister to Sister, he began to recognize that there was not enough time in a regular school day to focus on “soft skills”—the social and leadership skills young people need to gain confidence, find their voice and succeed. In particular, he began to see a real need for boys and young men to have a role model, as they often came from homes with absent fathers.
Meanwhile, Frederick attended Southern Miss on a football scholarship and went on to play in the NFL, first with the Arizona Cardinals and then with the Cleveland Browns. After he stopped playing professional ball, the brothers began talking about starting some sort of educational or youth program in Montgomery. Fate intervened and instead, Fred became head football coach and Athletic Director for St. Jude Educational Institute. Anthony took a leap of faith and left a secure three-year contract with the public school system to join his brother and take over as Principal at St. Jude. “That was a really good time for us, and we met a lot of great people,” Anthony says. “I really loved that year, but the school closed.”
While deciding on their next move, Anthony and Frederick took their biggest leap of faith yet and began seriously laying the groundwork for what would become Valiant Cross Academy. They teamed up with community leaders including Bryan Kelly of Common Ground Montgomery, Ron Mitchell of Prattville Christian Academy, and Montgomery natives Eddie Welch, Chase Fisher and Ben Blanchard to explore avenues of funding to make the idea a reality.
“A group of men had been praying for a community school and an all-male school,” Anthony said. “We really felt led and compelled to open a school to impact young men who might be fatherless or didn’t have the upbringing we did. It’s not an achievement gap for African American young men; it’s an opportunity gap. We want to stand in the gap and expose them to opportunities and education and training that will give them the tools to succeed.”
The school is growing slowly, and steadily, by design. After the first 30 students finished sixth grade and moved up to seventh grade, the school accepted 30 more boys to begin at the sixth-grade level. There were 85 on the waiting list. They plan to add a grade each year, with the original sixth-graders moving up to eighth grade this fall and a new class of sixth-graders coming in. In this way, the older boys “grow up” with the program, and also act as mentors and big brothers to the younger classes.
Children are not tested to gain a spot in the school. They are tested after they are admitted to determine if their academic skills are at grade level. If they are below grade level, teachers work with them to bring them up to where they should be. In addition to academics, scholars participate in Morning Village, where they gather together to recite the school’s motto and creed, and to receive encouragement, and participate in chapel services to provide spiritual enrichment. The curriculum also includes a service component so the young men participate in giving back and learning about how they fit into their community.
Tommy McKinnon, System Director, Marketing & Communications for Baptist Health, which is a Valiant Cross corporate sponsor, says the excellence is evident to anyone who visits the school and looks at the program. “Valiant Cross Academy is a shining example of leadership in action,” he said. “Headmaster Anthony Brock followed through on a vision to positively affect young African American males’ lives in order to produce young men of high character through enhanced academics, purposeful pursuit of Christian values and exposure to a world of community events, organizations and people whom the academy’s scholars would most certainly have never interacted with. I, personally, cannot wait to see the fruits of Valiant Cross’s efforts that I expect will result in a new generation of leaders.”
Other local companies and businesses are stepping up to support the school too, including Alabama Power. “This very special school inspires each of us to think differently about education and to reject whatever excuses stand in the way of every child getting the same attention and care as those afforded to scholars at Valiant Cross. The scholars at Valiant Cross Academy will be our next generation of leaders and that gives me great hope for the future,” said Leslie Sanders, Vice President, Southern Division, Alabama Power Company.
And River Region residents are clearly behind Valiant Cross as well. In June, the school was selected from more than 1,000 applications to the education category for an A Community Thrives (ACT) grant. The nationwide USA TODAY initiative provides resources for philanthropic efforts. After entering, applicants have to win the grant by way of popular vote. Valiant Cross was selected as one of three winners nationwide and received a $50,000 grant.
The grant money is earmarked for the new Valiant Cross Academy high school. School leadership is currently searching for a suitable facility. In addition to a top-notch academic program, plans for the high school include a job-shadowing program to allow the scholars to connect with local businesses and to learn professional and vocational skills.
At both the existing Valiant Cross Academy, which will house the middle school program, and the high school, there are plans to expand the athletic program. Valiant Cross already offers track and golf, and there are plans to begin football this fall. At full capacity, once the school has students in sixth through 12th grade, there will be 210 students. “We wish we could serve more, but those numbers are based on our budget, so for sustainability that’s where we need to be,” Anthony said.
In addition to tuition, Valiant Cross Academy Is funded by private donations, grants, corporate donations, and partially from monies from the Alabama Opportunities Act
Be a part: For more information about Valiant Cross Academy, to schedule a visit or find out how you can support its programs, visit them online at valiantcross.org
GIVEBACK + BRIEFS
Y102 Backs the Blue
WHHY, All the Hits -Y102, along with Moe’s Southwest Grill, held a “Back The Blue” lunch in late July at Moe’s Southwest Grill on Zelda Road. All active law enforcement officers, in uniform and with ID, received a free meal for lunch. The event was the second of three planned lunches that have taken place this summer at designated Moe’s locations in the River Region. Y102 teamed with Moe’s Southwest Grill to show appreciation for all that our men and women in law enforcement have done and continue to do in service to our communities.