Latin Builders Association impacting…

The Miami Herald

Latin Builders Association impacting local education with LBA Academy

For nearly half a century, the Latin Builders Association has helped transform Miami’s skyline into a modern and vibrant urban center. In recent years, the organization has been laying a different kind of foundation – one that seeks to transform young lives through education. 

Education is the great social equalizer and a way to effectuate societal change. It has the potential to improve lives and empower communities. Nearly 3.2 million students attend 7,000 public charter schools nationwide, and studies show many of them are closing the achievement gap for low-income, inner city children by allowing families to make the best choices for their future. Education can cure many of  the ills that plague our beautiful City. It is also a ticket  to success for the middle class. 

As a new school year gets underway, we reflect on our important educational mission over the past six years at  the LBA Academy Charter High School in Hialeah Gardens, the first business charter school established by a  professional business association in the U.S. LBA Academy first opened its doors in 2012 as a bold experiment  that sought to educate and inspire a new generation of business and professional leaders. Today, we offer a  unique curriculum with core high school courses in construction management, marketing, and a variety of  business disciplines, all with a strong emphasis on technology. Our goal is to prepare these students for  professional careers in construction and real estate-related fields and motivate them to start their own businesses. 

South Florida has been extremely supportive of Latin Builders Association members; LBA Academy is our way of  giving back to the community. Our students come from all walks of life and diverse neighborhoods. We are a Title  I School, which means that over 80 percent of our students are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch.  Many are the first in their families to aspire to a college education. Our story is their story. 

New students start the school year at LBA Academy with their own dreams. Among them is a young refugee from  Guantanamo, Cuba, who has been in the country less than two years. The 10th grader is excited about studying  business administration and becoming fully bilingual. Another 10th grader, from Miami Gardens, dreams about  becoming an entrepreneur. She urged her family to enroll her in LBA Academy and, according to her mom, was  dressed and ready for school before 6 a.m. on the first day of class. Another youngster, a recent immigrant from  Ecuador, told his mom, “the LBA is going to help me get into college” after his first day at school. His mother later  told us, “I’m so happy to see my son so excited about his education.” 

The LBA has made a commitment to assist these students by leveraging our organization’s resources. Our members serve as mentors and employers, offering students jobs and internship opportunities. Our goal is to  continue mentoring these students after they graduate high school and throughout college, offering them job  opportunities at companies within the LBA family. One such example of our success in this endeavor: last year’s 

LBA Academy valedictorian, who graduated with nearly two years of college credit already earned through dual  enrollment at Miami Dade College, is now employed at an LBA member company. The daughter of a janitor and  bus driver from Hialeah, this young woman aspires to become a real estate attorney. 

The Academy offers students and their families additional benefits beyond a solid high school education. We offer  scholarships through donations funded by LBA members and businesses. Several Academy graduates have  been awarded scholarships from Milner, Hotwire Communications and the Jose Milton Foundation, among others.  We invite business and government leaders to the LBA Academy to talk to our students. We also invite students  to join LBA business networking events. It is inspiring to see these students, at such a young age, arrive prepared  with a crisp elevator pitch about their goals and aspirations. Quite honestly, it has taken me a lifetime to develop  some of the connections these students have already built. 

As we plan for the future, we hope to add a vocation component to our school, making it a place where students  can train to become highly skilled workers, much needed in today’s labor market. We envision a school where  those pursuing vocational careers study with the same honor and pride as those studying business management.  The idea is to create a better opportunity for all students, regardless of their talents and goals. 

We call upon other business and community-based organizations to create educational centers for the betterment  of this magical place we call Miami. We stand committed to act as mentors to any organization taking on this  challenge. We can all make a difference by investing in our most precious resource — our children! 

Article by Bernie Navarro

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