“This is the most phenomenal thing that has ever happened to the organization,” said Village Prep founder John Zitzner. “It really allows us to keep moving forward in the right direction, to keep expanding, to keep adding more children.”
Village Prep, which started only one year ago, has a partner middle school, Entrepreneur Preparatory School, or E-Prep, which was founded in 2006 and has 300 students.
Both are located in Tyler Village, a renovated factory at East 36th Street and Superior Avenue.
“Listen, we need educated folks as we go forward, and good team members, and this school shows everything that we need as we go foward,” said Cliffs CEO Joseph Carrabba, as he helped christen the Cliffs Natural Resources K-2 Wing at Village Prep.
“It’s the foundation of Cleveland,” he told WKYC. “The children, you can see their self confidence when they come into a room. All those leadership qualities are coming along, with everything they’ll need in life skills, and an education.”
The youngsters at Village Prep and E-Prep are held to high standards, says Zitzner. “High expectations, no excuses, very strict discipline,” he explained. “It’s just setting high standards for the kids, for their parents, for everybody. For the teachers, and then holding them accountable for that.”
E-Prep students had some of the highest state achievement test scores in Ohio in April, 2010, far outpacing the average for African-American students around the state, and mostly exceeding the average scores of other public schools.
About 95 percent of the school’s enrollment is African-American, with 82 percent coming from families under the poverty line. Both Village Prep and E-Prep are open to any student in Ohio.
“Just think about all those kids that now have a future in front of them, due to the generosity of Cliffs and other fine organizations in Cleveland,” Zitzner beamed, as he led company executives on a quick tour of the exceptional school.
Carrabba also sensed the enthusiasm his company’s sizeable contribution added to the school’s already positive atmosphere.
“You can see it,” Carrabba noted, glancing at the first graders who had just welcomed his group to the school. “It just abounds in their faces. It gives you a real thrill to see this happen right in front of you.”