Born from Eastern University’s social justice mission and commitment to the Philadelphia community Eastern University Academy Charter School (EUACS) was envisioned by President David Black as an institution with the school-university partnership is at its core. Eastern University was awarded a planning and implementation grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2004 to become a part of the Gates Early College Initiative. The Early College Initiative supports bridge-building between institutions of higher education and secondary schools, so that more and better-prepared students from underrepresented and underserved populations graduate from high school ready for high academic achievement. The start-up was also funded by a grant from the Black Alliance for Educational Options Small Schools Project.
EUACS was developed by a team of committed educators who devoted considerable time and energy over a period of six years to the planning and implementation of the school. The school’s design was inspired by two of the most exciting models of school reform at the time – the Early College High School and the Big Picture models. Led by Dr. David Black, the founding coalition included Yvonne Turner, Dr. Vivian Nix-Early, Dr. Van Weigel, Dr. Heewon Chang, Gerald Clampet, and Wanda Bailey-Green of Eastern University; Rob Baird of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation; Isaac Ewell of the Black Alliance for Educational Options; David Bromley of the Big Picture Company; and founding Principal Mr. Omar Barlow.
In 2006 the University submitted an application to the School District of Philadelphia to establish a new charter high school to serve students from urban Philadelphia who have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education. Its goal was not only increase the number of high school students performing at advanced levels, but also to close the “preparation and performance gap” between state graduation standards and university entrance standards. After a tumultuous three years of delays, false starts, and staff changes at the District, a charter was finally granted to Eastern University in February of 2009 to establish Eastern University Academy Charter School. Ms Turner was elected chair of the founding Board of Trustees which also included Dr. Vivian Nix-Early, Wanda Bailey-Green, Robert Baird, and Isaac Ewell. A permanent board was established by the founding board. Chaired by Dr. Robin Weinstein, board members are: James Turner, Robert Oliver, Larry Mays, Carmen Finney, Dr. Harry Gutelius, Emmanuel Small, Lawana Scales, David Lindenmuth, Karen Graves, Teneeka Harper, Gerald Rocha, Dr. S. Monet Sifford-Wilson, Dr. Gerald Daly, and Parent Representative Staci Washington.
Eastern University Academy officially opened in September 2009 with 120 students in the 7th and 9th grades. The September 2009 opening was marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring actor Hill Harper.
Today Eastern University Academy Charter School is a model of true integration of an early college program where students prepare for and earn college credit prior to graduation, and a Big Picture School, where students spend a large amount of time pursuing their individual interests through individual work projects, small group projects, service learning projects, and structured internships. The key to making this model work is in the integration of key elements of project based learning, true performance-based progression and high school-college curriculum alignment based on PA and national college preparation standards, a small school with small seminar style classes, and preparation for the high school in an academically rigorous middle school program. The school currently serves 357 students in grades 7-12.
The mission of Eastern University Academy Charter School is to provide a wholistic, college-integrated learning community dedicated to the education of each student in the context of his/her unique interests. The school will provide students with an environment of excitement and early expectation through an integrative discovery-based learning experience that will develop logical reasoning, critical thinking, and purpose driven global citizens. The school will graduate self-directed, self-aware learners many of whom will have successfully mastered college level work.