debra_robinson_4.jpgWEST PALM BEACH — It’s not everyday that the community has a complaint that’s answered with a positive response. But that is exactly what happened when people called for a program based in the historic Roosevelt High School building. Residents wanted the school’s former glory to stand the test of time and to stand as a legacy for years to come.

Debra Robinson, vice-chairwoman of the School Board of Palm Beach County, answered the call.

Robinson created the Roosevelt Leadership Academy for Young Men, a first-of-its-kind school in the Palm Beach County school district,  the first to be designated for male students only.

The academy will have an African-American
orientation but will focus on a S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) curriculum. Enrollment will be open to all boys, not just blacks.

Discussions on the need for such a school date back some 10 years, when community members began calling for a high-level program to be based at Roosevelt, 1601 N. Tamarind Ave. West Palm Beach. There was also a concern about the education of black male students. The Roosevelt Leadership Academy for Young Men, slated to open in August, is the result, Robinson said.

“The dream of this community, on behalf of our children….they talked about the greatness of the former Roosevelt High School and they wanted that greatness to come back,” Robinson said at a recent meeting where parents were able to ask questions and enroll their sons. The Roosevelt site was used for an alternative school and in recent years, it has been home of the Joseph Littles – Nguzo Saba Charter School which now has to relocate.

The academy will open initially for sixth-grade boys and each year another grade will be added, eventually going up to 12th grade.

“This is not a school for ‘bad’ boys,” Robinson said. “This is not that program.”


Kareem Thompson, a specialist in the district’s Choice and Career Options Program, who is in charge of recruitment for the school, said the district is seeking boys with a desire to get ahead in life. “We’re looking for any student with ambitions of being successful,” he said.

David Gibson, an adult education teacher, said he has been attending the planning meetings for years and  welcomes the creation of the academy.

“This is important for the African-American community,” Gibson said. “It’s good that we can have a school, not an alternative school but a ‘shining’ alternative for parents to remember this community as it used to be.”

Gibson would like to see the curriculum expanded beyond formal class work, such as offering an entrepreneurial program. He said officials told him they would do community outreach for such an initiative. 

Attendees at the most recent meeting included Alice McCullough, 61, who took her nephew Keion Primous with her. “I think the Leadership Program will help him to become a leader and not a follower,” she said. “I’m glad the school accepts students whether they are a high achiever or not but with an emphasis on developing young boys into leaders and men of character.” 

Math teacher Antonio Osborne said he’s interested in being a part of the growth and development of the young boys who attend the academy.  He would have liked to attend such a school in his youth. He would have become an engineer, he said.  “If there is an opening for me at the school, I’d like to fill it,” he told the meeting. “This is an opportunity.”

Like A Family’

It’s going to take a group of interested men like Osborne to make the school a success, Robinson said. Mentors will be a big part in its success, she added.

“I need you to help to make this a reality. We’re building this dream here and we’re going to work together to make this a reality,” Robinson told the audience. “It’s my hope that every parent whose child comes to this school will be a part of a network of success.”

Jeff Pollard, the academy’s principal-designate, said it will be like a family.  “I think the climate is going to be one of the biggest contributors,” Pollard said. “Climate is important and there’s got to be that mutual trust.

Donald Gibson, a teacher, and vice-president of the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in West Palm Beach, said the historical focus will be crucial. “One way to develop our culture is to recognize our history. This will enrich their culture and history,” said Gibson.

The African American Research Library initiative is in full support of the school and is hoping to be a part of it, as well, Gibson said. He is hoping it can house the artifacts from their project.

McCullough, who is hoping her nephew Keion, can enroll in the school, agreed that the historical component  is vital.

“Most of our young men are not taught the history that they are kings. We need to get rid of alternative schools altogether when we start producing leaders from this Leadership Academy,” she said.

For more information on the Roosevelt Leadership Academy for Young Men or to enroll a student, contact Kareem Thompson at 561-357-1177.

Daphne Taylor may be reached at