St. Pete Spotlight: Local non-profit changes students’ lives

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This month, we are taking a look at a noteworthy organization here in St. Pete that focuses on improving education and learning environments for low-income students.

Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg is a nonprofit middle school for students qualifying for need-based scholarships.

You have to watch this.

In our community, many young people dream of a real opportunity for success. Yet, even for the most ambitious students, the limited access to a quality education in a supportive environment can prevent them from achieving this.

Academy Prep offers a solution to this problem. They focus on a college prep curriculum on a middle school level, extracurricular and enrichment activities, and a minimum of eight years of one-on-one support for graduates all the way through high school, college, and into their careers.

What is Academy Prep?

The first Academy Prep Center was founded by Jeff and Joan Fortune in Midtown St. Petersburg in 1997. Encouraged by the success of the first campus, the Foundation renovated the old V.M. Ybor Grammar School building and opened the Academy Prep Center of Tampa.

Who qualifies for Academy Prep?

All of the students qualify for need-based scholarships, which means they are from families that are below the poverty line, and they do not pay tuition. Academy Prep is a nonprofit, private middle school for students in 5th – 8th grade.

Lacey Miller Nash, the leader of development, says that it is critical that the students stick with Academy Prep for at least 3, preferably 4 years, to get the full educational impact.

This educational system uses gender-separate small classes, where teachers really know and understand their students and can provide individualized learning.

How does Academy Prep work?

While they do have a rigorous curriculum, in the 11 hours each day that the students are in school, they also get enrichment classes that broaden their perspectives. The faculty also works with students on character development and incorporate skills and lessons throughout the day that build confidence.

Miller says, “The students have to work hard and it certainly isn’t easy, but they’re given love and encouragement and they rise.”

The students and faculty at Academy Prep are in session 11 months of the year. During the 11th month summer session, potential students mix with current students to ensure that they understand the expectations.

What happens when the students graduate?

Academy Prep offers a post-graduation support system. After the students graduate from Academy Prep following 8th grade, the advisors continue to track and support them through high school and beyond. The Graduate Support team will attend athletic events, performing arts events, parent/teacher conferences, etc.

“We are more than a school. We are family,” says Nash.

How can you support Academy Prep?

You can donate directly to Academy Prep here. All gifts to Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg are tax deductible to the extent allowed under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

I Love the Burg’s Rose By The Bay event on June 1 is a rosé tasting event with portion of proceeds benefiting Academy Prep. You can purchase tickets here.

For more information about Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg, please contact Lacey Nash Miller, Development Director, at 727-322-0800 ext. 2109 or by email at

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Written by Kacy Vance

Kacy Vance

Kacy is a freelance writer for I Love the Burg. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a degree in Mass Communications and Criminology. Her thesis on Deaf and Disability representation in the media was published as part of the DePauw University Ethics Symposium in 2018.