School of the Week: Detroit Lions Academy

Committed to preparing students for high school success and beyond

“Honolulu blue” is a commonly known hue among Detroit residents as one of the colors of the city’s own Detroit Lions football team. However, that same color not only reminds us of the NFL team, but also the Detroit Public School which proudly honors the team’s namesake.

Detroit Lions Academy, located on the city’s east side, is an alternative education school cultivating bright young minds in grades 6-8. According to 13-year Principal Cheryl White, DLA offers students a comprehensive learning environment where all stakeholders are prepared to meet each individual student at their current level; encourage and challenge him/her to set attainable goals; and are committed to preparing the students for a successful high school experience.

“We meet each student right where they’re at when they first come to the Detroit Lions Academy,” explained White. “This way, we can better support each specific individual as they progress, move ahead, and prepare for high school.”

DLA offers a small learning community with small class sizes providing a more intimate educational setting. Principal White is a firm believer in the “middle school concept,” which is a critical developmental period where students grow out of the elementary school setting, yet need more time to mature before intermixing with the high school population.

“Middle school is a very important time for students. Serving grades 6-8, my students are able to stretch and grow in a structured environment as they focus on preparing for high school,” White said.

The Detroit Lions Organization has been very instrumental within the school by volunteering, mentoring and donating resources to ensure the students are attaining a star-quality education. One of the ways the organization helps the school academically is by providing learning tools for students to gain a 21st Century educational experience.

Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell, his wife Cheryl and current Lions players visited the school on Friday, September 12, 2014 to reveal a new 21st Century computer lab and learning center called the “Project Phoenix Learning Center” donated by the Jim and Cheryl Caldwell Foundation. The new learning center marks the sixth Project Phoenix Learning Center of the Jim and Cheryl Caldwell Foundation in the United States and the first in Michigan. It includes 20 new computers with Promethean ActivBoards, ActivSlate, ActivExpressions, network printers, Internet accessibility and specialized interactive instructional software.

“The Lions are always trying to find different ways to make the school feel a part of the organization,” White said.

The Detroit Lions Women’s Association (DLWA), which consists of spouses of players, coaches and other Lions employees, also visit the academy volunteering their time to work with female students.

The DLWA provides mentoring support and focuses on issues surrounding health, wellness and community development. According to the Detroit Lions Association, the DLWA members are active within the Detroit community, especially at the Detroit Lions Academy.

White explains that many students who attend DLA are not solely from Detroit’s east side, but from all over the city. For this very reason she finds it important to build strong community partners so that her students and their families always feel supported by the DLA team.

The school also offers a variety of clubs including science, technology and reading. Students do extremely well in these areas because they are able to start at the level of their own comfort, and as they become more confident, advance to higher levels.

“My favorite subject is reading because you find out new things every day,” said eighth-grader Jussica Wesley.

Wesley explained that her older brother, who now attends Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior High School, also attended DLA and was a key contributor to her decision to enroll at the school.

“The teachers here are very supportive and willing to talk to you if you are going through any issues,” Wesley said. “They make you strive to do better.”

Tysa Burks, also in the eighth grade and plans to attend Cass Technical High School, describes the DLA teaching style as fun and engaging for all students.

“I really like the teachers here because they make teaching fun, which makes you want to learn,” said Burks.

White said students learn best when they are actively engaged in the learning process and that her staff work incredibly hard at engaging each individual student.

“There is a misconception about alternative education schools,” said Joyce Allen, Language Arts and Careers Teacher. “We are the best kept secret.”

She attributed DLA’s success to strong community partners, such as the Detroit Lions Org., 21st Century Teaching and Learning, and continuing to successfully prepare students for DPS’ high-performing high schools.

“Principal White believes all students are A’s, and DLA is their chance to start again,” said Allen. “Your students won’t be the same when they leave DLA. They will be better!”

Something you didn’t know:

DLA now has two rooms that were remodeled by the Detroit Lions Organization and one room remodeled by Walgreens used as the school’s “Healthy Living” Room.

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