The addition of Sims-Fayola International Academy to Northeast Denver’s educational landscape in 2012 filled a long-held void for parents wanting the right fit for their sons. Today, Denver’s first and only all-boys charter public school is positioned to expand across the city and the nation.
Students come from all over the city from varied socioeconomic groups and cultural backgrounds. Forty-five percent of Sims-Fayola students are African-American, 43 percent are Latino and 12 percent are Caucasian or Asian. Sims-Fayola is an open enrollment school, serving grades six through 11. The school is open to any young man until capacity is full.
Spartan Parent Association President Tonya Cooper-Davis, says, “My son Troy Davis has made so much academic growth at Sims-Fayola but even more than that, his character is growing as well. I really appreciate the hard work and devotion of the staff at Sims.”
The staff is running on the inspiration of founder Dr. Dedrick J. Sims, who has devoted his life’s work to ensuring that education – what he considers a civil right – is available to all people, not just those who can afford it. The academy is the manifestation of his dream, born out of frustration, compassion and concern. It was built and designed to foster learning and global-mindedness in young men who may not otherwise receive the experience of a top-notch private school education at a public school price.
Sims, who holds a bachelor’s in biology, two master’s – one in science and the other in education – and a doctorate in education, has been an educator for the past 15 years serving in every role including substitute teacher, teacher, master teacher, principal and now school founder. He is also a U.S. Army veteran and advocate for teachers who he says inspired him to be successful.
Why Boys Only?
After having served as an educator for 11 years, Sims became frustrated and discouraged by what he witnessed in the classroom pertaining to boys. He noticed that despite all of the valid research that proves that boys and girls learn differently, young boys were expected to learn in ways that were clearly not tailored to their learning style. He noticed the higher rate of behavioral problems, suspensions, dropouts and disinterest among boys. It was clear to him that most of these things would decrease if these students were being educated in ways that allowed them better access to their education by teaching them the way they learn best.
With this knowledge front of mind, Sims asked: “Why not create this utopia of learning for boys—a school where boys learn through hands-on, project-based activities as research suggest is crucial for boys. Let them move and touch and experiment. Let them learn by doing instead of hearing lectures.”
On a piece of cardboard Sims began to map out his vision. He assembled a group of educators and business people who believed in his dream to help do research on charters, draft the charter and design the school. Everything this team did was purposeful and intentional. No detail was too small to deserve their very best. The name, the crest, the design of the building and the furnishings it would include were all painstakingly thought out. They knew that the young men that would walk though those doors deserved the very best.
Planning for their success entailed creating the vision that these young men would graduate college ready, globally competent men of good character. Everything in Sims-Fayola is designed to meet the goals of this vision from the name Fayola, which means “one with fortune walks with honor” to the quotes on the walls, the flags and images of countries, and the schools mission posted on the wall, which reads, “To graduate college ready, globally competent males with the Knowledge, Skills, and Habits of Mind to succeed in a 21st century global society.”
Planning for Tomorrow
Many people have come on board between the time of the inception of the dream and the fruition of the dream. The school has doubled in size and seen tremendous growth in reading, writing and math. Some of the students enter Sims-Fayola two or three grade levels behind and through the rigorous classes, the hard work of the dedicated and diverse staff, students and families these young men experience phenomenal growth and success. In the first year of existence the high school obtained blue status in growth on TCAP (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) scores, demonstrating that Sims’ students outperformed most schools in the district in growth.
The academy is looking forward to being fully grown in 2015 when it will add its 12th grade class. Also, Sims-Fayola will be opening schools in Atlanta and Indianapolis. Sims would also like to see a second school open in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. He has been told by many in the city that it would be a welcome addition to the area.
Along with the future expansion of the school and the network, the creation of the Sims-Fayola International Academy Foundation is slated for this year. The purpose of the foundation is to raise funds for the international travel that is a part of the curriculum at Sims-Fayola. All students during their junior year will travel abroad to experience other countries and cultures. The foundation will also help to pay for Sims-Fayola’s annual “Helping Boys Thrive Summit,” the purpose of which is to educate educators, parents and policy makers on ways to help boys be successful academically and throughout life.
Cooper-Davis is just one of the few dedicated parents that have found the school to be a place where boys are loved and nurtured, while being pushed to be their best self. Graciela Silva, parent of Dante Silva, says, “Sims-Fayola has helped my son to become a well-rounded young man.”
Silva and Cooper-Davis have been with the school since it opened its doors and are very involved with the school.
Editor’s Note: Sims-Fayola International Academy encourages and supports the participation of the community. If you would like to be involved, there are numerous ways to do it. Volunteers are welcome as well as Character Lunch speaker. If you are a business person, politician, physician, community leader, educator, etc., you are invited to come out and speak with the young men during a working lunch presentation. There are also ways to support the academy’s endeavors through contributions. You can sponsor a classroom, create a blazer scholarship or just be a part of Sims-Fayola events. If you have an interest in doing any of these things, contact the academy at 303-375-4911.