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 get to know Rochester mom MJ Allen.
“What I love about Young Women’s College Prep is that they’ve created and cultivated a culture for young women to express themselves and find their voice. That is so important in today’s world.”
MJ Allen is the first PTA Board President at Young Women’s College Prep Charter School of Rochester. Allen wanted to be more involved in her daughter U’Nisia’s education, and she is working hard to make sure other parents can get involved as well. This is the type of engagement that Allen couldn’t find in a district school, but her daughter’s charter has changed that for her.
U’Nisia started her education in a Catholic school, but in fourth grade transitioned to a Rochester district school. Having gone through the city school system herself, Allen did not like what she saw and what she knew U’Nisia had to look forward too.
“There wasn’t much parent involvement, and the teachers seemed overextended. Kids were not getting enough individual attention,” Allen explained, “U’Nisia was just a number in the system – she didn’t have the true support that most kids need in school.”
Academics were also a concern. U’Nisia was taking more advanced classes and would need more of a challenge, and at the same time have teachers who could work with her. That prompted Allen to look at charter schools. As her daughter approached seventh grade, Allen heard about the new Young Women’s College Prep Charter School. The school was holding a lottery for its inaugural class and she entered U’Nisia for a seat.
“U’Nisia didn’t get in through the lottery. I was really bummed and kind of hurt when her name wasn’t drawn. I didn’t want her to continue in the district.”
Fortunately, the school reached out a week before classes started to let Allen know there was an opening. Allen said it was “awesome” to receive that call, and that they were very lucky to have this opportunity.
When U’Nisia started, Allen noticed the change in school cultures immediately. She said that the teachers have been very hands-on throughout each grade level, and keep in constant contact with the families. Now a sophomore, U’Nisia is thriving at school. She is taking multiple AP classes and is in the honors program.
Now Allen is also more involved. Before the PTA was formed this year she served on the council for parents, teachers and students. Now has the head of the PTA, she works on holding events for families to come together and build a stronger community. It is work she says she truly enjoys.
“I love it. I want to see these girls succeed academically and share it with their parents. They are growing up so fast and some of these parents don’t always have ideas on how they can keep up with them. We want to give them an outlet to let these families have some fun and spend time together,” she said.
The experience of sending U’Nisia to a charter school has been exactly what Allen was looking for. It has given her the opportunity to become more involved in the school and community, but more importantly it is making her daughter a better person with a bright future ahead of her.
“I notice it with my daughter when I see how strong her voice has become. She stands up for herself and is so opinionated and confident. She is not easily influenced by her peers; she is her own woman. This school is creating leaders.”