Opportunity, diversity, and a new hot spot for education choice

When it came time to find an elementary school for her daughter Amanda, Maria Jimenez researched several options in Osceola County before choosing Mater Brighton Lakes Academy, a charter school with a strong academic reputation and a vibe that “felt like home.” 

A friend with a daughter the same age as Amanda chose a different school. But a year later, when the friend saw Amanda and her classmates surging academically, the friend switched to the charter school, too.


“Parents are talking. Parents are comparing,” said Jimenez, a stay-at-home mom. “Parents are doing whatever’s best for their children.”

Booming Osceola County, just south of Orlando, is the latest hot spot for school choice in Florida.

Fueled by Puerto Rican transplants looking for better jobs and a better life, the population of Osceola has rocketed 70% in the past 10 years and more than doubled in the past 20, to nearly 400,000 people. As fate would have it, that search for economic opportunity coincides with Florida’s expansion of educational opportunity.

“Education is very important to the Puerto Rican community,” said Jimenez, who is of Puerto Rican descent and now has two children – Amanda, in fifth grade, and Jayden, in first – attending Mater Brighton Lakes. “Why are they choosing charter schools? Because they challenge students. You can tell the students are learning in a way that’s going to help them through their entire life.”

Osceola now has the highest rate of students in charter schools among the big urban counties in Florida, recently surpassing Miami-Dade. The 25 charter schools in this corner of Florida, once better known for cowboys than Boricuas, enroll more than 15,000 students. That’s 22% of the county’s public school enrollment, and up 41% from five years ago.


Read the entire article

Read "Charter schools are good for our community" on The Florida-Times Union

Written by Guest Columnist, Tunji Williams, Principal of Somerset Academy Eagle Campus in Jacksonville

When it came time to find an elementary school for her daughter Amanda, Maria Jimenez researched several options in Osceola County before choosing Mater Brighton Lakes Academy, a charter school with a strong academic reputation and a vibe that “felt like home.”

Mater Lakes Academy’s Ceaser Asadi and Albert Osorio: Coach of the Year

Congratulations to Coach Ceaser Asadi, coach of the Mater Lakes swimming program for being named Swim Coach of the Year by Miami Herald.

Coach Asadi led the team to third-place in the FHSAA State 2A Championship. This is the highest victory achieved by the Mater Lakes Academy Swim Team history. Some featured victories by the Mater Lakes swim team include a win in the 200-yard freestyle relay, as well as four top-five event finishes.


We would like to wish another congratulations to Coach Albert Osorio, coach of the Mater Lakes Baseball team. Coach Osorio was named the district coach of the year, having led the team to both a District Championship, and Regional final appearance, the first time in the team’s history. The season began 5-4 for the Bears, and the team went on to win 17 of the final 20 games.


Congratulations once again to Coach Ceaser Asadi and Coach Albert Osorio, as well as to the Mater Lakes Swimming and Baseball Teams.
To read the complete article in the Miami Herald, please click here

Julio Horrego from Mater Academy Middle/High participating in the 2021 Olympic Games

The three-time state champion will be representing Honduras this summer in Tokyo.

We want to wish Mater Academy Middle/High Julio Horrego luck at the 2021 Olympic Games this summer.

The three-time state champion will be representing Honduras this summer in Tokyo.

Congratulations Julio Horrego on this achievement and good luck!

Congratulations to Mater Academy Middle/High for winning the Academica eSports Championship and Florida Band Association Composition Contest!

Mater Academy Middle/High has started off December with great achievements! On December 5th, the Mater Academy eSports Rocket League Team won the Academica eSports Championship for the second time in the League’s history. Congratulations to Anthony Alvarez, Anthuan Carrasco, Gavin Garcia, Adrin Irias, Alean Rodriguez, Marcos Dorta, and Erick Sanchez, who are all a part of the Mater Academy eSports team. Thank you to Mater Academy students Christian Stewart and Marlon Arancibia for being a part of the broadcasting team. For more information visit the Academica Esports website.


In addition to the eSports victory, Christopher Artau, another Mater AAcademy Middle/High student, won the Florida Band Association (“FBA”) Composition Contest. This contest recognizes students' efforts in making original compositions. Christopher’s composition, “Blossom”, was recognized as the winning piece among all other applicants’ compositions in the state of Florida. Christopher’s award-winning composition will be played at the Florida Music Education Association’s (“FMEA”) 2021 conference, where he will receive his plaque.


Congratulations to Mater Academy Middle/High for their great accomplishments this week!

Taylor Pagan and Angeles Alderete lead Mater Academy girls’ volleyball to state title

In a season completely disjointed between the COVID-19 restrictions and a team without a home, the Mater Academy girls’ volleyball team found a way to overcome it all.

Competing in their first girls’ volleyball state championship game, the Lions had one final hurdle Saturday night.

Find a way to beat an undefeated Tallahassee Leon team that is the defending state champion and the No. 8 nationally-ranked team in the country (Max Preps).

When Angeles Alderete went up high and drilled a hard kill shot, the Mater bench emptied with joy as it was the game and championship-winning shot.

The Lions captured the 6A title with a 3-1 (25-23, 23-25, 25-20, 25-22) win against Leon in the Class 6A state title match at Suncoast Credit Union Arena.With their gym undergoing renovations, the Lions didn’t play a home match all season.

This season, Alderete and teammate Taylor Pagan led the way for the Lions as they combined for 300 kills (Pagan 152, Alderete 148) so it was only appropriate that the two led the way as they combined for 39 of the team’s 58 kills.

“I don’t even know if the moment has hit me yet, I can’t believe what we just did,” said a euphoric Pagan. “We worked so hard and overcame so much along the way, and I really think we deserve this moment. There’s no way we would’ve ever done this without great teammates and great coaches.”

The win marked only the second team state title in the history of the school, matching the baseball team that won the championship in 2014.

“This entire year has been amazing,” said Mater coach Elsa Lopez. “Our motto all season long has been ‘against all odds’ and we managed to put one final great effort together tonight to get this done. We’re honored to bring back another state title to the school and grateful to so many people for helping us along the way including iMater and Pace [where Mater played its home matches]. If we had had to go on the road to play those playoff games, especially St. Thomas, I’m not sure we would be standing here right now.”

After years of having to deal with a road block in the form of St. Thomas Aquinas ending their season in the regional playoffs and then having to watch the Raiders go on to win another state title, the Lions made it over the hump, beating St. Thomas in a five-set marathon in the regional semifinals at Pace.

“Once we got past St. Thomas, we knew we were in a great position to take it all the way and that’s exactly what we did,” Alderete said. “I’m sure it’s going to be quite a celebration at the school next week, and we can’t wait to get back there and celebrate.”

After winning the first set, the Lions (9-2) were in prime position to go up 2-0 when they held a commanding 21-14 lead in the second set. But Leon wasn’t about to go that quietly as they put on fierce rally, going on an 11-2 run to close out a 25-23 win squaring the sets at one apiece.

“That was the moment where we needed to gather ourselves and not let them get the momentum,” Pagan said. “It was important to get off to a good start in that third set and reestablish the momentum and we managed to do that.”

Leading that third set 22-16, Mater almost saw it slip away again as Leon scored four straight points to cut it to 22-20 forcing Lopez to call a timeout. But Pagan and Alderete were up to the task as each recorded big kill shots to close out a 25-20 set victory and 2-1 lead.

It looked like Leon would force a fifth and deciding set when it jumped out to a 13-8 lead. But the Lions were a determined bunch. With Aiko Helper and setter Elaisa Villar also playing big roles, Mater rolled off six straight points and never trailed again.

Perhaps the most exciting thing for Lopez and her team is that, with only one senior on the team (libero Melanie Chiquillo), there’s a good chance they will be back.

Said Lopez: “Hopefully this is only the start of more great things to come. I’m so proud of these girls for the sacrifices they made and hurdles they cleared.”

Grit and Growth

Teach the Way they Learn: Episodes 1,2,3

Lily Salazar speaks with Fernando about his life in charter education and the role that grit, perseverance, and conscientiousness play in lifelong student achievement.

Listen to more Teach the Way They Learn podcasts here: https://academica.org/podcasts/teach-the-way-they-learn/​​​​​​​

Educating Students for 21st Century Careers

Charter School Superstars: Episode 29

Tony Morales (managing director at N2Growth) provides insight on what school should be doing to prepare students for the tech-focused careers of the 21st century.

Listen to more Charter Schools Superstars podcasts here: https://academica.org/podcasts/charter-school-superstars/

Neurology, Sleep relating to student success

Teach the Way They Learn: Episodes 4,5,6

Tony Morales, Juan Infante, and Liliana Salazar discuss how educators can use neuroscience concepts to creative positive education outcomes for all students.

Listen to more Teach the Way They Learn podcasts here: https://academica.org/podcasts/teach-the-way-they-learn/​​​​​​​

Effective advocacy and the future outlook for charter schools

Charter School Superstars: Episode 2

Lynn Norman-Teck offers insight on the evolution of the charter movement in Florida and gives her outlook on the future of education reform.

Listen to more Charter School Superstars podcasts here: https://academica.org/podcasts/charter-school-superstars/​​​​​​​

STEM Stories

Teach the Way they Learn: Episodes 36, 37

Christine McGuinn and Scott Davidson talk provide insight on the origins of STEM in education and discuss increasing the exposure and engagement of STEM learning.

Listen to more Teach the Way They Learn podcasts here: https://academica.org/podcasts/teach-the-way-they-learn/​​​​​​​

E-Sports in Schools

Charter Schools Superstars: Episode 15

Ralph Krauss and Michael Smythers talk about why e-sports programs are good investments and why they're valuable for students.

Listen to more Charter Schools Superstars episodes here: https://academica.org/podcasts/charter-school-superstars

Distance Learning for Public Charters

Charter Schools Superstars: Episode 71

Fernando Zulueta (CEO of Academica) talks about the transition process for students and educators to virtual learning and digital platforms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listen to more episodes of Charter Schools Superstars here: https://academica.org/podcasts/charter-school-superstars/​​​​​​​

Virtual Guest Speakers

Charter Schools Superstars: Episode 72

Ryan sits down with Ralph Krauss, the creator of Edutainment learning, a program that livestreams virtual guest speaker programs to students. On this episode, Ralph talks about his program and the role that technology plays in bringing Edutainment to thousands of charter school students.

Listen to more episodes of Charter Schools Superstars here: https://academica.org/ralph-krauss-edutainment-learning-virtual-guest-speakers-in-charter-schools/ 

Advocates for SWD

Charter Schools Superstars: Episode 73

Ryan sits with Liliana Salazar, the National Director for Special Education and Student Support for Academica. On this episode, Lily talks about her transition in helping students with special needs remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Listen to more episodes of Charter School Superstars here: https://academica.org/podcasts/charter-school-superstars/

Distance Learning Opportunities

Charter School Superstars: Episode 85

Antonio Roca (Managing Director of Academica Virtual Education) talks about Academica Virtual Education and how it has expanded its footprint to meet the needs of schools transitioning to digital learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listen to more Charter School Superstars episodes here: https://academica.org/podcasts/charter-school-superstars/​​​​​​​

Empowering Student Leaders

Charter School Superstars: Episode 91

Principal Carmen Cangemi of Mater Brighton Lakes discusses the benefits of The Classroom of the Future has provided in her classroom and also shares her school’s positive experiences with the Leader in Me program.

Listen to more episodes here: https://academica.org/podcasts/charter-school-superstars/​​​​​​​

How recording artist and charter school student Mercedes Ferreira-Dias conquered "The Voice," and the classroom

Charter School Superstars, Episode 21

To listen to more Charter Schools Superstars podcasts, visit this link: https://academica.org/podcasts/charter-school-superstars​​​​​​​/ 

Judy Marty and Carrie Montano on effective school leadership and helping all students succeed

Charter School Superstars, Episode 1

To listen to more Charter Schools Superstars podcasts, visit this link: https://academica.org/podcasts/charter-school-superstars​​​​​​​/ .

Samsung’s Display Solutions Help Reimagine the Classroom for one of the U.S.’s Largest Charter School Support Organizations, Academica

September 9, 2020


Samsung Electronics America, Inc. announced today its partnership with Academica – one of the largest charter school support organizations in the U.S., serving more than 200 public charter schools and 125,000 students in nine states – to reimagine the classroom for the 21st century.


The partnership arrives during the new learn-from-home era, as traditional classroom settings are being enhanced with virtual setups that are interactive and engaging. Samsung delivers a complete ecosystem of display products and solutions optimized for all variations of back to school, including remote learning and hybrid teaching models. With long-standing education programs including Solve for Tomorrow, Samsung understands how technology impacts education, and how now more than ever, it is critical to learning and creating change in grades K-12.


“As we continue to navigate this new normal together, we need to take a practical approach to helping students and educators adapting to a new learning environment,” said Mark Quiroz, Vice President of Marketing for the Samsung Display Division.“We’re offering new solutions and working with education networks like Academica to bring ease to the transition to remote and hybrid learning models. Students’ safety and health are top of mind and we are proud to be able to offer tools that bring the classroom into the home.”


In preparation for the 2020/21 school year, Academica surveyed parents to get a better understanding of how to plan for the fall semester. Over half (59%) indicated they preferred a mixture of classes in both physical and online classrooms. Given this feedback, Academica knew incorporating more technology in the on-campus classrooms would be paramount and quickly began designing the Classroom of the Future (COTF). As a result of that study, Academica is installing 4,500 Samsung Pro TVs in over 2,300 classrooms in 125 of its schools across several states including Florida, South Carolina and Nevada. Plans are currently in place to roll out the solution in other states over the next few months.


Equipped with Colēgia, a digital education operating system​​​​​​​ that hubs applications, content and communications, Samsung Pro TVs give both remote and in-person students the ability to interact with each other and their teacher in a live format.


“We are thrilled to partner with Samsung to help our students, teachers and administrators get back to the classroom safely and efficiently,” says Antonio L. Roca, Managing Director, Academica Virtual Education. “When schools shifted to virtual learning at the start of the pandemic this spring, we took it as an opportunity to shift our way of thinking about the traditional classroom. The display solutions provided by Samsung allowed us to create an environment that allows each student to thrive no matter their location.”


As students and teachers embark on their remote learning journeys and in-person classroom setting, Samsung and their trusted partners will keep powering schools in the Academica network with innovative display technology solutions to reimagine the learning experience. These include nationally-ranked networks such as Somerset Academy, Mater Academy, Doral Academy, Pinecrest Academy, CIVICA, International Studies Charter and the Sports Leadership Arts and Management (SLAM) Charter Schools, founded by GRAMMY®-winning international superstar, education advocate, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Armando Christian Perez (Pitbull).


That’s what it’s all about…reinventing yourself, challenging yourself, pivoting…and that’s exactly what our schools are doing,” says Perez. “I’m really proud of the amazing work the teachers, parents, students and administrators have put in to make this happen. We’re changing the game on how kids learn and appreciate Samsung’s help in making it happen.”


Large format displays allow teachers to adapt to the new normal and engage with each student on a one-to-one level whether they are in a physical classroom or in a remote setting.


“The Classroom of the Future is innovative and dynamic. I love that students are able to collaborate with each other whether they’re in class physically or remotely,” says Vanessa Chaoui, a 6th-grade teacher and mathematics department head at Mater Academy Middle and High School in Hialeah Gardens, Florida.“The large displays are critical for engaging and dynamic interactions. The image is clear, crisp and bright. It helps facilitate managing a physical and virtual classroom, simultaneously.”


As a leader in visual display Samsung understands the demands and challenges that face education today more than ever, and the importance of providing technology solutions to ensure education can be taught from any location. Together with Academica, we help students realize their potential whether in a remote, hybrid or on-campus classroom environment.


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