This year marks the first full year of the founding of the LBA Construction and Business Management Academy, a charter high school in Hialeah. It’s the first time a business association, such as the Latin Builders Association, has opened a business charter high school in the United States.
The LBA established this charter school as a way to give back to this community, which has been so generous to its members. As second-generation LBA members, we were taught by our parents and grandparents to make education the cornerstone of our lives. Their tragedy showed us that everything material could be taken away from you on a whim — everything except what is in your brain.
Our parents and grandparents stopped living their dreams so we could fulfill ours. They knew that we could dream big dreams if we had the proper education. Our generation has an enormous responsibility to honor the legacy handed to us by educating the future professionals of our industry and leaders of this community.
Another reason the LBA started the high school is because we understand that our national education system is broken. We could not sit idle and not use all of the resources we had at our disposal to enrich the lives of our future leaders. The United States ranks 15th in reading proficiency, 23rd in science, and 31st in math among other nations. China ranks No. 1 in all three categories.
The only way we can fix this is by starting one school at a time and giving students options. When it comes to a high school education we understood that the “one size fits all” approach does not work. We are thankful that the Miami-Dade County School Board understands this. Our vision could not have been achieved without its support and the leadership of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
From the inception we have had a clear plan for success. LBA Academy Principal Gyovania Marante laid the foundation and created a climate of possibilities for teachers and students. We have developed a well-thought-out plan that includes:
• Professional development for our teachers.
• Helping students understand their options in life.
On the technology front, all of our students are equipped with a free iPad. Our goal is to have paperless classrooms in the near future. Our teachers understand their role in our school: to mentor, stimulate, provoke and facilitate learning. They understand that standardized tests have a place and are important but should not be all. They have brought excitement to the classroom instead of following a testing algorithm.
Our students understand that they have various options when they graduate: continue on to college, start a business or start working for one of our member companies in a well-paying job. The students have met our challenge and have been inspired and are eager to learn. In our first year of operation our charter school earned an A in state FCAT rankings, demonstrating that with the proper infrastructure great things in education can be achieved. The experiment to start the first business charter high school founded by a business association has proved to be a success. From the first day this idea was introduced, our 40 members of the board of directors and 750 member-companies have been eager to help and enthusiastic about the possibilities. The members of the board serve as mentors and our member companies provide internships to many of the students.
Many of the association’s business meetings with elected officials and business leaders occur in the school cafeteria with our students participating and keenly observing, like hawks, how business is conducted. This has given the students insight on how to interact with business people which has developed their self-confidence. It has also exposed them to ideas and issues that would have taken them many years into their careers to learn.
We are hopeful that our experiment catches on like wildfire in our community. Because the real economic development of Miami-Dade County is training the next generation of leaders.
Our youth deserve to have opportunities here in their own town and should not have to go elsewhere to pursue their dreams. We are optimistic that our small grain of sand in the education system serves as a challenge for the rest of our community so that Miami can continue to be the world-class city we all envision it to be.
Bernie Navarro is president of the Latin Builders Association (LBA) and founder and president of Benworth Capital Partners, a privately held real-estate investment company headquartered in Coral Gables.