Like any other teenager, JJ had dreams. He was just an average middle school student when his parents decided to make a change in his school. He was in the Memphis City School system and his parents were concerned. They wanted him to go where he would be safer, more focused and get a quality education. They wanted to give him wings.
And wings he got. When JJ graduated from the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering (MASE), he could have attended MIT or Harvard. Because, as it turns out, this once-average student who was provided an opportunity for a quality high school education has quite a knack for engineering.
However, JJ chose to attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts because with the full four-year scholarship he was awarded, his family won’t have to worry about providing tuition or books.
JJ is just one example of the 600-plus students who pass through the Academy each year. MASE is, of course, the brainchild of our medical community’s own Steve Bares, President and CEO of Memphis Bioworks Foundation. Bares, who is featured in this issue of Memphis Medical News as the August Healthcare Leader, noted that the establishment of this school was one of his proudest personal accomplishments. And proud he should be, giving Memphis inner-city kids a chance to discover a love for learning and opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Bares also links MASE to an even broader vision for Memphis. “Memphis Bioworks Foundation’s mission is to establish the region as an international bioscience center,” he said. “Fulfilling this mission will require a constant and consistent flow of talent with the skills and knowledge necessary to support healthcare and bioscience businesses in Memphis and to attract new companies to the area. Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, Tennessee's first charter school, was founded to advance the education and training of our workforce in the science, technology, education and math skills needed to support our bioscience ecosystem and ultimately help grow the economy in Memphis.”
How Big is the Problem?
It’s no secret that public schools in Memphis are struggling and have struggled for many years with issues regarding quality of education as well as safety. Suffice it to say that JJ’s parents aren’t the only ones concerned enough to seek alternative solutions. Chavon Davis is another Memphis parent engaged in her children’s education. Not having attended college herself, Chavon, an employee of the VA Medical Center, makes sure her four teenage daughters have a better shot than she did at a college education. She drives them to three different schools each morning. One of those schools is MASE. “There are schools in my neighborhood, but when it comes to academics, I’d rather drive to give them a better academic advantage,” Davis explained.
Charter schools are not all alike and typically don’t perform as well as other types of private schools. However, funded by local and federal grants, plus private donations, the tuition is free to students which makes charter schools a good alternative for parents who could not afford private school tuition. MASE, the first charter school in Tennessee, was established in 2002.
MASE has a vision; “To be a national model for Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM) education. We will graduate one hundred percent of our students with the academic, personal and social tools they need to complete a four-year college degree in science or engineering. Our aspiration is to produce global citizens with critical thinking skills, the ability to solve complex problems, and the technological sophistication to have a positive impact on the communities in which they live and work.”
MASE’s goal is to have a 100 percent graduation rate. That rate is currently in the mid-90s. There are two campuses. The middle school is located on the ground floor of the same building that currently houses Memphis Bioworks Foundation. The high school is just a few blocks away at 1254 Jefferson.
Rick Maupin, the chief operating officer for MASE commented on how MASE is changing the future for many inner-city students in Memphis. “A lot of these kids are isolated. They’ve never even been to Germantown. We show them that your neighborhood or background is not the end game. MASE is about providing an opportunity for children in Memphis.”
MASE is preparing a younger generation to someday become leaders in Memphis. One of the school secretaries, Sylvia Cooper, wrote the Alma Mater for MASE. The last verse goes like this:
We’re the leaders of tomorrow’s years.
We’re taught at MASE to have no fears.
We can – achieve- the best of things
Because we’re flying with…out wings.
Well, at least not the kind of wings you can see.
How Can You Help?
DONATE: Your private donations can help MASE in obtaining teaching tools such as robotic supplies, computer software, one-on-one tutoring and ACT Prep. Here are some specific donations and how they can help MASE:
- $50 stocks supplies for a middle school classroom
- $100 provides robotics supplies
- $500 covers the cost of college campus tours for our high school students
- $1000 provides 40 hours of 1-on-1 tutoring for a student
- $2500 provides ACT prep for 10 student
Of course, all donations are tax-deductible.
Become a corporate sponsor and offer internships to your organization.
Current corporate sponsors for MASE include Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corporation, Medtronics and Memphis Bioworks. Internships not only provide a learning experience and exposure to the field in which the student is interested, but they also often provide mentoring relationships that help keep local talent in Memphis.
To donate or inquire about becoming a corporate sponsor, please call Rick Maupin at 866-1643.