JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Jacksonville's first Historically Black College and University-inspired elementary school is now open on the Northside.
Becoming Collegiate Academy has its ribbon cutting and 'thank you' to the community Tuesday, but it's already started making an impact. The school is at Gateway Town Center and as the executive director says when you see the brown bear you'll know you're surrounded by love.
"We take the best practices from the HBCU experience," said Executive Director Cameron Frazier. "So we allow our brown bears to have that experience early on."
When you open the doors to the school, you can see HBCU flags decorating the entrance. ABC's in classrooms represent "A" for "Alcorn State University" and "Z" for "Zora Neale Hurston."
Frazier says representation matters.
"It's very important that our students see role models who look just like them standing in front of them every single day," Frazier said. "It's extremely important for our students to experience it in elementary school. They need to see Black males teaching them academic content, letting them know that they are smart, building their identity, holding high expectations and surrounding them with love."
Reportedly two percent of teachers in the country are Black men. At Becoming Collegiate Academy, half of them are.
Ahmad Levy used to be Frazier's student and now he's a teacher himself. He says he didn't have a teacher who was a Black man until seventh grade.
"Seeing someone that looked like me as my teacher, that really inspired me to take a second look at different things to do in life," Levy said. "I now teach so that I can be that representation for our community."
In their first year, Becoming Collegiate Academy has a kindergarten and first grade. They plan to add a grade every year to complete the elementary school and complete the goal of becoming an inspiration for their community.
"Our brown bears are going to make a difference in the world one day," Frazier said. "You'll see the big brown bear and you'll be surrounded by nothing but love."
The school is still accepting applications for students and looking for educators. Learn more here.
The ribbon cutting is at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday.