SLAM charter school coming to Palm Beach County

SLAM charter school (WPEC).PNG

Sports, education and a famous rapper have come together to get students excited about learning, graduating in record numbers and heading to college. The unique charter school is a huge success in Miami and this fall, it's coming here.

Little Havana: land of Cuban coffee, domino kings, and baseball dreams, but in the middle of the poverty, the crime and the harsh reality of life in exile stands a 7-story beacon of hope. SLAM, which stands for Sports, Leadership and Management, is a charter school for 6th to 12th grade students.

"It's a tough neighborhood. Ninety-four percent of our students are on free or reduced lunch. However, we graduate 95-percent of our students," says SLAM principal Alex Tamargo.

It's impressive, considering the graduation rate for South Florida public schools is less that 80-percent.

"When you come to SLAM, it's not IF you're going to college, it's where you're going to college," adds Tamargo.

So what's their secret? Sports.

Students choose an academy: Sports Medicine, Broadcasting or Marketing, Entertainment, & Management. Teachers incorporate sports into their lessons. They like to call it: "SLAMifying" a lesson.

"It combines the two things I'm most passionate about, business and sports," says 11th grader Nelson Canizares, "So it helps me get ahead in life and hopefully be able to do something in that field."

Work is underway right now to expand the campus, to allow the student population to grow from one thousand to 28-hundred and include an elementary school. There's a lot of competition to get into this school: four thousand applications for just 200 spots, hence the expansion, which will be done in January next year.

And the expansion extends to Palm Beach County and Nevada... with SLAM charter schools opening this fall on Summit Blvd in West Palm Beach and another in Henderson... just outside of Las Vegas.

Rapper Pitbull lends his name and star power for the schools. Other celebrities and athletes like Magic Johnson visit. But students don't have to look far for inspiration.

Geometry Teacher Wilfres Rivera grew up in a rough neighborhood with a single mother, because his father was in prison, but he still graduated with a 4.0 and played college football.

"Just having that background that allows kids to say if you can do it, maybe I can do it," he says, "And if I have the maybe factor, I can do almost anything with them."

"That's the most powerful impact you can have on someone," says SLAM Foundation President Rene Ruiz, "Where somebody mentally removes whatever boundaries they thought were limiting them and now see beyond and now have a vision for something a couple of years prior, they didn't think was possible."

SLAM Miami just graduated its second senior class, the majority of which is attending college through athletic and academic scholarships.

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