Academy Prep: Transforming lives through education

ST. PETERSBURG — On 22nd Avenue South, about a mile away from I-275, there stands a new building made mostly of glass. In the early morning hours, when the sky is still dark, a bright light can be seen shining out from the inside, and the sound of collective voices can be heard.

Every morning, more than 100 middle school students line up outside of this building at 7:30 a.m. sharp to individually shake the hand of the Head of School.  Once inside, they gather to reflect, pray, and to prepare for the long school day to come.  They hear from teachers and staff about valuable life lessons and remind themselves with an inspirational school pledge that together they are the “The Greatest.”

This is Academy Prep.

Since its founding in 1997, Academy Prep has worked with the south side St. Petersburg community to transform the lives of middle school students who qualify for need-based scholarships by providing them with a tuition-free college-preparatory education.

Starting from enrollment in the fifth or sixth grade, students attend Academy Prep — up to 11 hours a day, six days a week, 11 months a year — on full scholarships provided by individuals, businesses, and foundations in the local St. Petersburg community.

Through intensive nurturing and guidance, Academy Prep aims to help students learn to see education as a way to a bright future and to move students toward a life of success.

It would be easy to assume this place is simply a school, but to its students and their families, it is so much more.  Alisha Hooker, the mother of an Academy Prep graduate and current student, shared that, “Academy Prep is so much more than a school to me.  It’s community. They teach my children life skills, work ethic, the importance of service, pride in oneself, and the value of a firm handshake.”

The Academy Prep experience for these capable and deserving young people includes a rigorous academic curriculum, rewarding extra-curricular activities, weekend field trips, a three-week summer program, and eight years of ongoing graduate support. Core subjects are taught in small class sizes separated by gender, and the schedule is designed in a manner that allows staff and faculty to strive to meet the unique learning needs of each of their students.

Academy Prep works closely with its students, families, and the local community to promote resilience and success.  It is certainly a partnership. Academy Prep doesn’t make the student.  The students, along with constant support from their parents, teachers, staff, volunteers, and mentors, make themselves.

Through this collaborative effort, Academy Prep is inspiring and motivating their students to become the best versions of themselves and the community leaders of the future. In a neighborhood that has faced a history of hardship, Academy Prep has remained a constant.

The school has been a source of support for hundreds of students and their families for the last 22 years.  Head of School, Gina Tanase Burkett, reflects that “with the construction of our new multi-purpose building and renovations including a new art room, music room, multi-media center, and STEM lab, Academy Prep remains committed to serving the students and families of the south side community for many years to come.”

If you would like to learn more about Academy Prep and how it can transform your child’s future through education, you are welcome to attend an upcoming Open House on Sunday, Nov. 17 from 2- 3 p.m. or Sunday, Dec. 8 from 2-3 p.m.   The campus is located at 2301 22nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33712.

For more information on the enrollment process, please contact Anita Reece, admissions and scholarship coordinator, at (727) 322-0800 x 2105, by e-mail at or by completing an inquiry form available on the school’s website at

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