Public Charter Schools: More Than a Movement

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LaKendra Butler is the founder and executive director of STRIVE Collegiate Academy

“I choose to teach at a school that takes students on college tours and out of the state to see the possibility of the opportunities that lie ahead of them. I choose to teach at a school that, despite teaching a historically underserved population of students, has achieved level 5 growth scores every year. I choose to teach at a school that empowers students and provides them with the tools to not only be good scholars but great people in their community.” — Emily Martin, 6th grade STRIVE Math Teacher

A movement is described as “a group of people working together to advance their shared belief in a particular idea.” In the case of “The Charter School Movement,” it is a group of people working together to advance their shared belief in ‘school choice’ for families. Prior to arriving in the McGavock Cluster in Nashville, there wasn’t another option for families. I was committed to educating families not only about STRIVE, but also about charter schools and why we exist. Many families didn’t know what a charter school was in 2014, but our team made it a personal mission to educate families about school choice and help them become experts in the school choices they had as families. This movement is not only about getting more students in one type of school, but educating families about the type of school options they have. This is who we are—we don’t just educate students, we educate families.

STRIVE Collegiate Academy classroom with teacher and students.

In a safe and rigorous environment, our mission is to provide one of the strongest educational options for 5th-8th graders in Nashville, and to equip students to become responsible citizens, contributors to their communities, and lifelong learners. But how? Responsible Citizens. Through our values of Self-Advocacy, Teamwork, Resilience, Integrity, Virtue, and Excellence, students are driving their own learning starting in 5th grade. If we prioritize giving them the tools in 5th grade to become the drivers of their own success, we are preparing them to become responsible citizens beyond their K-12 schooling. Community Contributors. Every semester, students are spending time in elementary classrooms reading to students aligned to our literacy pillar all while contributing to their community. Lifelong Learners. Starting in 5th grade, students track their academic and culture progress to help see where they began and what they need to do to continue to grow. We are committed to our students intellectual and social growth at STRIVE and beyond. Our founding class of students, who are entering their last week of school, will be embarking on their high school journey in the fall. We have committed to follow each one of them to their different high schools to support them alongside their parents academically and socially through tutoring support and volunteer opportunities with STRIVE. This is who we are—we don’t just equip students, we are equipping a community.

Romans 8:37 states, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” When I started STRIVE, I wanted to ensure students and staff knew that this was a safe place away from home that they could grow, learn, and believe that all things are possible. At the core of our values is Resilience and that’s what this movement is about. If these first four years of STRIVE are a testament to what we can do, we are believers that we can do so much more. We are not where we want to be, but with any movement, we are learning alongside other great schools to help us continue to grow and serve. At STRIVE, we are a family committed to equipping students with the knowledge necessary for them to be at the top of their classes academically all while leading opportunities outside of the classroom.


LaKendra Butler is the founder and executive director of STRIVE Collegiate Academy


Celebrate National Charter Schools Week with the movement!

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