By Sandra Coopersmith
Features Writer 

When You Wish Upon a STAR . . .

 

March 19, 2020

Dreams can indeed come true, especially when that dream is, per the STAR Prep Academy's mission statement, "to unlock student strengths and nurture our students' natural gifts and talents to develop multi-skilled, high achieving, adaptive individuals, preparing them for a future of limitless possibilities."

In the fall of 2019, STAR Prep, a college prep WASC accredited school since 2003, moved to the campus of West Los Angeles College (WLAC) at 9000 Overland Ave., Culver City, having determined that the new campus location would further cultivate a college-like educational environment and empower students in middle and high school to prepare for future college and career opportunities.

"STAR Prep Academy promotes a family-like atmosphere that supports the many facets of learning styles, encourages students to reach their full potential and provides guidance for students as they walk their own path towards success," said Principal Thomas Valencia.

It was felt that WLAC, with its lush green rolling hills and an array of high school concurrent enrollment options, would provide the perfect setting for STAR Prep students to manifest their school's "Five Points of a Star" philosophy, inspiring them to develop the abilities depicted therein as "critical thinkers, empowered leaders, expressive communicators, lifelong learners, and global citizens," all in a real-world college atmosphere.


STAR Prep's parent organization, STAR, Inc. and the award-winning STAR ECO Station remain conveniently located at 10101 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City. Per STAR Prep Director Marisa Cleghorn, this proximity "has allowed our students to take part in incredible classroom internship experiences and further the environmental science advocacy efforts of the STAR Prep community."

She and Director TeryArnold described some of STAR Prep's special features, which include "promoting an educational atmosphere designed to fit the needs of students rather than need the students to fit in; providing an intentionally small classroom environment with a global reach through off-site learning experiences and international exchange; utilizing instructional technology to meet the diverse learning needs of every student; and immersing students in interdisciplinary learning experiences designed to incorporate real-world learning."

Cleghorn proudly added that STAR Prep "offers a full range of core Academics including AP History, English, and Calculus, along with robust elective offerings in languages, music, fashion, technology, and visual arts, all tailored to the passions of the student body. We engage students in a college preparatory curriculum with a faculty specialized in their field, leading students through their academic journey with emotional compassion and individualized attention. Our team of elite college counselors guides students in their exploration of college and career opportunities, and we provide middle and high school students with a college-like experience on an actual college campus before ever leaving home."


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Two of those students shared their views.

"There are specific moments in your life where it takes a completely different direction," said 2019 alumnus, Thomas Suarez. "STAR Prep Academy serves as one of those moments for me. I love that school." He gave his first TED Talk back in 2011 when he was 12, and in the summer of 2019 he interned at the Think Tank Team at Samsung Research America.

"Some of the things I think make STAR Prep unique are the freedom to pursue what you want to do and the opportunity that your teachers and the faculty bring to you that allows you to focus on what you want to do while still maintaining a foundation of core academics," said Student Body President Donovan Coleman.

Madelaine Lorenzana, Visual Arts Instructor, stated that "STAR Prep Academy offers highly customized classes to students with brilliant minds that benefit from integrated curriculums in unconventional class settings." Mick Bender, AP Fashion Instructor, added that "as an Arts Teacher, the creative energy in our Makerspace is electric. Our new location is full of possibility and joy."


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Those feelings clearly came through in a sampling of parents' comments.

Irit Freedman delights in "having my child appreciated for his talents and abilities, giving him the best environment to succeed academically as well as be happy and look forward to waking up every morning to go to school. Go see it and find an environment like no other!" Describing it as "gifted, out-of- the-box education in a loving atmosphere, a total life-changing experience for our whole family," Freedman added that "the day our son started attending STAR Prep, his life and our lives as a family changed completely."

It was "a new, loving and welcoming school that allowed him to shine, be his best, create, learn, and be able to improve constantly," Freedman continued. "Through the music bands he cooperates with his peers, through the flexibility the teachers give he is able to express what he learned and create his own unique ideas, and through the positivity that everyone at STAR Prep is practicing daily, he thrived and became a happy learner. STAR Prep puts a spotlight on each student's strength and lifts their spirits up. After that, everything else follows. STAR Prep is definitely our son's happy place."

Fabiana Medici, whose oldest son graduated from STAR Prep and is now studying at Loyola University and whose younger son will be graduating this year and attending Cal Arts, was impressed by the "great community of teachers and students that supports each one's individual needs and learning. The new location brings diversity and a nice opportunity for the students to be in a college environment."

"STAR Prep Academy has allowed my daughter to enjoy learning again!" Ashleigh Wright Matthias declared. "As she was identified as Profoundly Gifted, she had a hard time fitting in at her elementary school. Since starting middle school, she is excited and energized to go to school every day. The academic program is rigorous with high standards set for the kids. The variety of classes offered are unique and fun but also practical and important for our current economy. My daughter especially loves the Rock Band program. Her passion for music is nurtured in a variety of ways."

For Cheryl Stern the most rewarding aspect of being part of STAR Prep is "the feeling I get when I walk in the door. My child matters. My child is important, and her unique qualities are celebrated."

The accolades of many other parents included words such as engaging, creative learning, life-changing, close and supportive, personal, happy, accepting, fun, bright, and progressive.

"Built on the rock-solid foundation of STAR Education, innovators in education, STAR Prep Academy is dedicated to inspiring students to discover their passion and realize their dreams!" Cleghorn enthused. "If you and your student are looking for a future of limitless possibilities, you've found the place – STAR Prep Academy, where the sky is no longer the limit!"

For tours go to https://www.starprepacademy.org/ or call the school at 310-842-8808.

 

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