FLORIDA PREP: boldly embracing change to better meet the challenges of the future
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BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – The Space Coast is famous for blazing new frontiers, so it is not surprising that one of its premier educational institutions is boldly embracing change to better meet the challenges of the future.
Florida Preparatory Academy, with a rich history in the area, is in the midst of a bold five-year master plan that will result in significantly enhanced facilities and curriculum.
Since 1961, when educator and aviation enthusiast Jonathan Dwight launched Florida Air Academy for young men, the school has become a well-recognized landmark in Melbourne, thanks to the rich history of a campus composed of some of the most historically significant buildings in the area, including the 1925 mansion that today houses Florida Prep’s Hall of Flags.
The school also earned a reputation for excellence, with 100 percent college acceptance of all graduating classes since 1978.
In 2005, the Academy became co-educational, and in 2015, Florida Air Academy officially became Florida Preparatory Academy to better reflect its changing identity.
The school was purchased in 2017 by California-based investment company Newopen USA, which vowed to build upon Florida Prep’s already impressive commitment to excellence and to the community.
“We have some beautiful historic buildings on campus we want to preserve and renovate to bring out their historical significance,” said Florida Prep president Dr. Marshall Willman.
Thus far, in addition to the purchase of the school, Newopen USA has already invested approximately $4 million in upgrading dorm rooms and facilities, enhancing campus security, recruiting and training staff, augmenting the lush gardens that encircle the complex and establishing a Scholastic Achievement Scholarship program with awards up to full tuition for outstanding students.
And that is just for starters.
Under the guidance of HKS, a Dallas-based architectural firm, all the legacy buildings will be receiving extreme makeovers as new buildings are also added to the campus.
Last year, Newopen purchased the neighboring Florida Center retail facility on U.S. 192 to transform the 56,000-square-foot complex into a new Admissions Welcome Center, already under construction.
Within the campus proper, several older buildings without historical significance will make way for a new state-of-the-art science building.
The campus will be redesigned to include covered walkways, reflection areas and more green space, including a vegetable garden, now in the early stages.
“We have undertaken our first planting and will be working on the structure throughout the summer,” said Jeanette Middleton, marketing and communications director for the school.
“Our goal is to produce sufficient quantities of produce to be used in our kitchen.”
Leading the garden project is Chef Eric Schappert, the school’s culinary director, who has integrated the garden into his culinary class and is promoting it through the farm-to-table concept.
Next summer should see the appearance of a covered on-campus performance venue that will have close connections with the historic Henegar Center for the Arts in downtown Melbourne.
“We are launching a theatre elective this coming academic year that will be taught in conjunction with the Henegar both on campus and at the theatre,” explained Middleton.
“We have numerous students interested in participating. It will be the entire theatre experience, including sound, set design, makeup, costume design and production. We will also seek input from the professionals at the Henegar as we move forward with the covered venue because we would like to ensure it is truly multi-purpose and able to adapt to the needs of the entire school.”
Last year, Dr. Willman authorized Florida Prep’s $125,000 sponsorship of the Henegar to support its efforts at bringing quality performing arts to the community.
“I value our partnership with the Henegar Center and am looking forward to watching it grow as we innovate new ways of bringing the arts to the community,” added Dr. Willman.
The upgrades won’t just be skin-deep, either, for the school will emerge with a redesigned curriculum that will better meet the needs of future leaders in technology and industry.
A number of new support programs, including SAT and ACT prep, are being introduced, and a new academic STEAM-focused curriculum, designed to best utilize the new campus facilities, is in the pipeline.
“That means that every unit of every course and every segment of every unit is going to be redesigned,” said Dr. Willman.
An active faculty recruitment drive has yielded top-class talent from within the USA and beyond.
A team of educational advisors has been tasked with helping current administration and staff to implement changes that will provide comprehensive academic tracks that allow students a jump start on high-demand career fields such as cyber-security and environmental science.
As an additional service to the community, Florida Prep is also reaching out to families with homeschooled students to offer them participation in selected classes.
The school, long noted for its diversity, draws students from 22 countries, thus creating a student body of “citizens of the world” comfortable and appreciative of different cultures.
However, while international in scope, Florida Prep still remains a hometown school with tuition discounts for families associated with local companies and the military.
Newopen USA’s parent company in China owns and manages several elite colleges and high schools in China, including the nationally acclaimed Bachuan High School.
The company added Florida Prep to its educational portfolio because of its impeccable reputation for excellence and for its strategic location in one of the fastest growing technology hubs in the country.
Florida Prep’s five-year plan also includes linking the school with two partner schools in China to allow student exchanges both East to West and West to East.
Every aspect of the five-year plan is designed to achieve the school’s mission “to prepare each student for college success and beyond in a way that leads to personal wisdom and integrity, cross-cultural partnerships and a global vision, and service to society and the environment.”
“We will continue to maintain the unique character of the Florida Prep campus while utilizing cutting-edge technology,” said Dr. Willman.
“Our goal is to become a landmark of technological excellence, well equipped to serve the needs of our students and community partners as we move further into the 21st century.”
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