ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Ann Bancroft Foundation has honored St. Paul educator Cindy Reuther with a Dream Maker Award for her work in establishing Minnesota's first girl-focused, tuition-free charter school.
2010 marks the 13th annual Ann Bancroft Foundation Dream Maker Awards. Each year the Bancroft Foundation recognizes two adults, an organization and one girl for their achievements in life and for supporting other women and girls as they accept challenges and reach toward their potential.
Educator Cindy Reuther is one of this year's Dream Maker Awards winners in the adult category for her work in creating the Laura Jeffrey Academy (LJA) in St. Paul.
"It's been a dream in the making, and when I look back on my life, I've worked for..." Reuther tried to explain, before getting choked up at the thought of the charter school she created.
Cindy Reuther's dream come true
"They talk to me about the difference that this school makes in their lives," Cindy said about her conversations with students. "It's a humbling experience."
Named after St. Paul scholar and librarian Laura Jeffrey, the Academy is Minnesota's first girl-focused charter school.
"Kids come into the world as learners, every one of them, and something happens sometimes where it gets squashed," Cindy said as she explained her inspiration for LJA.
Reuther says, for girls, that tends to happen at about the age of 10.
"When we get to the middle school years, we tend to start focusing more on, like boys, and not caring about stuff," Laura Jeffrey Academy student Miranda Kettlewell said.
"They're really looking at their identities. They formulate who they are as young women. They're going to decide whether they are a scholar or not. And we want to ensure that they make that choice, 'Yes, I am a scholar,'" Cindy said.
"It's nice for people to get away from all the drama and focus on school," LJA student Myranda Frechette said.
"LASS is language arts and social studies. SMATH is science and math," Myranda said while explaining the classes she takes as part of her 6th grade schedule.
The school uses interdisciplinary learning in science, math, language arts and social studies. Those classes are integrated with art, music, health, and physical education.
"At the beginning of every quarter, all of our teachers get together and plan across disciplines. So music will know what they're doing in SMATH class. SMATH will know what they're doing is LASS. So they can do relevant learning," Cindy said.
Students get the message
Students at the school are as well-versed as staff on the benefits of their year round, girl-focused learning.
"Once you learn your science, math, technology, you can use it when you're older and when you go to college," LJA student Emma Taylor said. "Girls can do anything. It's very empowering here."
"So we can be really successful women in our jobs," Miranda added.
Looking ahead at LJA
Laura Jeffrey Academy has 150 students enrolled in the 2009-2010 year. Eighth grade classes that will be added in the fall will bring the student enrollment to 220.
There are hundreds of girls who Cindy one day sees as successful working women. Women, who when asked what made their success possible, may say, "Laura Jeffrey Academy."
It's a powerful thought for the founder.
"I have been interested in and worked for equity for girls and women, my whole life. So this is the culmination of that work. This is to me, equity for girls." Cindy said. "And we did it. And what's really amazing is we're going to have a model that works, that we can replicate into the future."
For more information on Laura Jeffrey Academy visit http://www.laurajeffreyacademy.org/
For more information on the Ann Bancroft Foundation visit http://www.annbancroftfoundation.org/
(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)