Bible Truth Ministries Academy
(Published in 2008)
Tampa – For Suzette Dean, the journey began in a converted upstairs apartment in her own home. She turned the space into a classroom for eight desperate children who lived in her east Tampa neighborhood and, with it, changed the calling in her life. Nine years later, she and husband Daniel run a school with 67 eager children in a polished grey stucco building. It sits next to a sanctuary with the word HOPE written across the front. Both were built by Daniel’s own hands, and they have become monuments to the couple’s dream for their community.
Bible Truth Ministries Academy already has become such a fixture in east Tampa that most afternoons students from the public high school across the street stop by for studying, tutoring, FCAT preparation and free time in the computer lab. On any given day, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and All Sports Community Services director Tyrone Keys may be talking with young males about setting goals for college or current Buccaneer Michael Clayton may be reading to young students. Teenagers and adults play on the outdoor basketball court or engage in games of chess and checkers under the stately trees. The rules are simple enough: no swearing, no fighting, no drugs, no pants below the waist, and show respect.
The school is the product of genuine sweat equity, along with an $80,000 family bequest the couple used to buy land and building materials. The school spans from Kindergarten through 12th grade, and the tuition in 2008-09 was $3,763. The school currently serves eight Step Up For Students scholarship recipients. Students are divided into multi-grade learning groups and taught with the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, which is self-paced and has allowed some of the students to advance well beyond their grade levels. Mrs. Dean believes in regular evaluation and uses the Stanford Achievement Test to measures students’ academic standing nationally. The only sport offered at the academy is chess, and the students have become so successful they often bring home trophies competing against students who are several years older.
In June, the academy celebrated its first graduate. That young woman, Angel Nichole Lee, had attended since fourth grade and had made the climb from C’s and D’s to A’s and B’s. She headed off to Hillsborough Community College with ambitions of medical school. “Although you start out bad,” she told students at her ceremony, “you can end up good.”
The typical scholarship school
Is small in size: The average total enrollment is 161 students.
Serves mostly private-paying students: Step Up students make up an average of 30 percent of total enrollment.
Serves elementary students: About 66 percent in grades K-5.
Is faith-based: Seventy-five percent of the schools are faith-based. The 193 Catholic schools represent the largest single group.