Aspire Academy, a new early childhood education center housed on the campus of Urban Prep Academy at 2618 E. 24th Street North, is now open and accepting children from 2.5 to 12 years old for either first or second shift.
The academy is the latest in a series of endeavors to help support families, women and children undertaken by veteran educator and newly ordained Baptist pastor, Rev. Stephanie Stovall. It is an addition to Women Aspire, a non-profit support program for women overcoming difficult life circumstances from domestic abuse to addiction or incarceration and the Family Education Project, which offers support to parents who are seeking to further their education as a way to improve their financial circumstances.
“This learning center is the nonprofit entity that is intended to help support Women Aspire and the Family Education Project,” Stovall said.
Unlike many early learning centers, Aspire Academy will offer two shifts of care. During the second shift only, parents can enroll in the Family Education Project and pay an hourly rate for 2nd shift childcare on the days they need care while attending classes.
A long history in education
Stovall, who worked for USD 259 for 30 years as a para educator, a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, and a behavioral specialist, retired in May 2022 to concentrate on maintaining and expanding Women Aspire and developing the early childhood venture.
“I have always been passionate about education, especially for young children,” said Stovall. “Our mission at Aspire Academy is to provide quality care that promotes growth and development to get the youngest children prepared for kindergarten and to give older children the foundations of reading, math, language and the social and emotional skills needed in preparation for school and life.”
She said Aspire Academy will pursue accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). These accredited programs meet NAEYC’s standards for providing: a safe and healthy environment for children, teachers who are well-trained, access to excellent teaching materials, and a curriculum that is appropriately challenging and developmentally sound.
Aspire Academy uses the High Scope Curriculum, which focuses on learning through discovery and purposeful play, decision making and cooperation as an academic foundation. Activities take place both indoors and outdoors.
Helping families flourish
Stovall said her early experience as a young, single mother informed her passion for helping other parents. That led her to start her first nonprofit business venture in 2008 with a mission to help parents and families. It grew into the program that she named Women Aspire in 2014a support program for women overcoming difficult life circumstances from domestic abuse to addiction or incarceration.
“To get ahead, they need higher education or a trade for themselves that allows them to advance. A lot of people are going through exactly what I did – trying to work to get by while also going to school.”
That’s where the Family Education Project fits in. It teaches a number of skills including parenting, stress management, conflict resolution, financial literacy and the importance of sticking with higher education.
Aspire Academy meets what Stovall sees as one of the other important family needs.
“Access to child care is one of the biggest stressors on families,” she said. “Parents need to work to have the money for housing and food and clothing,” she said. “But child care, especially for those with multiple children, can cost more than they can earn in a typical unskilled job.
Hopes and Plans
Another one of her organization’s mission is helping children and their parents achieve financial literacy that will enable them to build security.
“I knew nothing about how to make my money work for me and how to make it grow,” she said. Down the road, I’ll be looking to partner with other organizations to teach financial literacy with us.
For now, families can enroll in the Education Project and receive the second shift hourly rate for childcare while they’re in classes. In the future, Stovall plans to offer a scholarship to help subsidize the hourly rate.
“I believe that as a community, we have to find ways to support one another,” she said. “Helping families find the dignity and pride that comes with self-sufficiency is what I know God has called me to do.”
Stovall was recently ordained as a minister in the Baptist Church and said she considers serving the children and parents of the community as her ministry.
Call the Aspire Academy for additional information on tuition and fees at 316-201-1254.