The New York Twenty: Real Charter Champions profiles the everyday people who are the champions to their children: parents and grandparents who make the critical choice to send their kids to charter schools. Over the next several weeks we will be sharing the real stories of charter parents around New York State. Today meet Ja'Mia Hewitt.
Many parents are drawn to charter schools because of their cutting-edge and innovative approaches to education. Charters are able to push the envelope and educate kids in exciting ways that you wouldn’t normally find in a district school because they are free from much of the bureaucratic red tape that binds many public schools.
For Greece mother Ja’Mia Hewitt, it was the school’s unique approach that led her to choose Renaissance Academy Charter School for the Arts for her son Kamai.
“Where we live, the schools have done well,” Hewitt said, “I could have sent him to a regular elementary school, but when I heard about Renaissance’s program and what they stood for, I knew it would be the perfect fit for my son.”
The school’s focus on the arts grabbed Hewitt’s attention. Her husband is a drummer, and that love of music was clear in Kamai at a very young age. It’s something his mother and father wanted to help foster in him.
“My son has been a drummer since he was literally a year old. I loved that there was a school opening that would focus on areas where he was so inclined,” Hewitt said.
After Hewitt heard about the school, she pored over hundreds of pages from the school’s application. She wanted to make sure that the choice she made for her son’s education would be the right one. She read about the school’s arts curriculum, which included dance, drama, art and music, and knew it was everything she was looking for to broaden her son’s mind and get him engaged in the classroom. Kamai is in first grade now, and Hewitt has been impressed with the school over his first two years there.
“It is like night and day when you look at how much he has grown. This school has done so much for him. Within a month, he was comfortable in his new school and he loved it. The teachers are like family to him. It is really tremendous to see.”
The hard work of the teachers is what has really stood out to Hewitt – not only with her son, but with all of the children. Though it is located in the Greece school district, Renaissance mainly serves kids from Rochester, the lowest performing of the big school districts in the state.
While Hewitt and her husband were fortunate to have quality options in their community, she knows there a lot of families without that same benefit that badly need more options like high quality charter schools. She says the teachers at Renaissance go above and beyond for the children – something all kids should have.
“The teachers bust their butts to provide the best education for those kids. They love these kids and have made it a really awesome environment for them.”
Because Rochester charter kids are short-changed – they only receive 68 cents on the dollar compared to district students – there isn’t a lot of wiggle room in the school’s budget. That’s why the teachers pay out of pocket for reading materials and other classroom items.
“You have to love these children to want to spend your own money on them,” Hewitt said.
Between that level of dedication and caring from the staff, to a school environment that allows Kamai to march to the beat of his own drum - Hewitt knows she has found the right school for her child.