Friendship Aspire Academy Public Charter School, one of the largest charter schools in the nation, will be opening a location in Pine Bluff on Aug. 13 at 3911 S. Hazel Street.
An event was held Thursday at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Business Support Incubator and Office Complex to give the public a chance to meet those in charge of the school.
Beginning with just two locations in 1998, Friendship now spans over 12 campuses, including online, for students in grades pre-K3 to 12.
According to school officials, their “rigorous curriculum, exemplary instruction, resource-rich forums, and total commitment to student advancement have made Friendship one of the nation’s top charter systems.”
“We become successful by building relationships with parents, community stakeholders, local politicians, and etc.,” said Jeffrey F. Grant, National Head of Schools. “We will educate the children like they are our own children. Your children are now my children.”
Grant said that education will be provided to the children by giving them opportunities, hands-on application and exposure by traveling across the state.
He said Friendship’s mission is “to provide a world-class education that motivates students to achieve high academic standards, enjoy learning, and develop as ethical, literate, well-rounded, and self-sufficient citizens.”
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington shared her thoughts on the new charter school locating in Pine Bluff.
She said that she knew the heads of the school were serious and passionate about their mission when she first met them at the City Hall.
“I like to see people who are passionate about what they do because that is the only way you can do it and do it well,” Washington said.
“We are happy that you have chosen to invest in our community. We embrace your mission, and I hope you live up to it. We ask that you become an active part in our growth and revitalization. Your success is our success; we welcome you to Pine Bluff, Arkansas.”
Friendship has had success with their schools in Washington DC, Baltimore, Maryland, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They said they are sure that they will be successful in Arkansas as well.
Friendship Aspire Academy in Pine Bluff plans on opening with an enrollment of 160 students in grades K-1 in August 2018. Over five years, the school projects that the enrollment will expand by 80 students per year to a full enrollment of 480 students in grades K-5.
Friendship has been in existence for more than 20 years and has more than 5,000 students in 15 schools nationwide, along with a 100 percent college acceptance rate, according to school officials.
They have been named one of the best charter management organizations in the nation, the officials touted.
“We ask that you share in our dreams for the children, and that is to be the very very best that they can be,” said Donald L. Hense, chairman and founder of Friendship Public Charter School.
Hense said that Friendship is a “family affair,” adding that the school will provide classes for parents to educate them on how to work with their child and be involved, while also offering financial literacy courses.
“You cannot have a vision of a great world for your child if you don’t have a vision for yourself,” he said.
The principal of the Friendship Pine Bluff location, who has worked in education for the past 15 years, expressed his excitement about coming to the city.
“Education saved my life,” he said. “I can’t wait to open the doors and see that I have some babies who look at me as their principal.”
He said that the school will help develop children socially and emotionally due to the many challenges and issues that are faced today.
“We have to develop relationships with our kids and show them that we care,” he said. “We are excited to partner with Pine Bluff. This is going to be a great opportunity.”