The first thing you notice is all the boys are wearing coats and ties. The second thing you notice is that there are no girls.
Of course, you would not expect to find girls at a school called the Young Men’s Preparatory Academy.
It’s a grades 6 through 12 public school in the heart of Wynwood, proving that the uber-hip area isn’t just for artsy tourists, foodies, and graffiti painters. The Miami-Dade School District transformed the old Buena Vista School building, built in the 1920’s, into Young Men’s Prep a few years ago and now they have a public school with a private school feel.
It’s an all-magnet academy which attracts boys from Homestead to Miami Gardens, from Miami Beach to Doral, who want to take advantage of the unique opportunities it offers. YMPA, as it’s called, has less than 300 students.
“As a matter of fact our graduating senior class has only seven students this year,” said principal Pierre Edouard. “Seven students, not 70, not 700, only seven and they’ve all been accepted to various colleges and universities.”
They emphasize leadership skills at YMPA, to the extent that every student takes a leadership course.
Part of the philosophy here is that the older boys should mentor their younger classmates. In the computer science lab, we saw that philosophy in action. Seniors and juniors were helping the middle school kids with robot design, coding, and designing things on the 3D printer.
The curriculum has an emphasis on making all the students computer literate.
“Our kids since they very beginning start learning how to code and go all the way to AP computer science classes,” said computer science teacher Luis Felipe.
YMPA has award-winning TV production and debate programs and with classes so small, everyone gets hands-on opportunities and individualized attention which isn’t feasible in traditional large schools.
In the honors high school chemistry class, there are only nine students. As you would guess, the teacher loves it.
“I feel this is the ideal situation because each student gets the one-on-one treatment and I can actually customize my lesson to serve the student, if they forgot something I can catch them up right away rather than stop the whole class,” said chemistry teacher Esther Edouard.
YMPA is proud of its jazz band and drum line, too, and being the only all-boys, college-prep public school in Florida, the students here are definitely marching to the beat of their own drummers.