Eminent African-American social reformer, statesman, and writer Frederick Douglass claimed, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Atlantic City teacher Ricardo Belgrave aspires to mirror that mantra with the creation of the Frederick Douglass School for Boys.
“I researched why there was a gender gap (in performance) between males and females. So I started an all boys classroom in the fifth grade. But I realized fifth grade was too late; we needed to have something in place for them sooner.”
Sparked in sixth grade by Marvin Hill, his first African-American male teacher, a motivated and engaged Ricardo hopes to identify and nurture the talent in his all-male student body.
“A component of our school structure is to identify a child’s giftedness and then harness that and use that as a tool to keep them engaged. That’s why we have three fields of study: performing arts, STEM, and business/entrepreneurship.”
The initial FDSB set-up encompasses K-2, but the goal is to add a grade to the school structure each year. As the first all-boys charter school in the state, the scheduled opening in 2018 includes a mentorship program in partnership with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and scaffolded, advanced placement preparatory classes that begin in third grade.
“We are looking at the Mayor Usry building and building a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club so we can use both facilities. We would use both facilities in the day, and they would use both at night. Making that happen would be a huge boost in the services provided to the children of AC.”
Ricardo Belgrave’s initiative can only add credence to the Frederick Douglass legacy.
By John “Yonk” Rosnick