joshua_mobley_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

MIAMI GARDENS — When Joshua Mobley’s mother enrolled him in the Richard Allen Leadership Academy as a third-grader, he just wanted to make new friends and hone his talent as an artist. But his experience at the school, he said, changed his life.

“A lot of good things have happened since I came,” said Joshua, 12, and now a fifth-grader. “I have great friends, the teachers are great mentors and my mom is happy that I have improved in math.”

Prior to starting out at the academy, Joshua wasn’t doing too well, said his mother, Chastity Mobley, of Miami Gardens.

“He was distracted by everything and his FCAT scores were low,” Mobley said. “This year, he brought them up to a 4 and for that I am grateful.”
But the FCAT has been the least of Joshua’s challenges in his short life. When he was 3 days old, he underwent open heart surgery for a type of congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot that causes low oxygen levels in the blood.

“A valve had to be placed in his chest so he could breathe normally,” Mobley said. Joshua returned to the hospital in 2010 for a second surgery.  “He was getting older and needed a bigger valve. He was in the hospital for one week and recovery time was one month.”

Joshua’s prognosis is excellent, Mobley said. “He is on no medications and the doctors are pleased with his progress,” she added. So much so that a dozen years later Joshua was among 16 fifth-graders and 18 kindergarteners who took part in the all-male academy’s June 5 promotional ceremony held at the school, 17800 N.W. 25th Ave., Miami Gardens.

“We call it a promotional ceremony because they are being promoted in life,” said Frances Young, principal of the Richard Allen Leadership Academy. “There will be many graduations and many degrees to follow. We are grooming them for that.”

The featured speaker, Fidel Goldson, told the boys they each have “a greatness” and all they need to do is believe it. “God has blessed you with many different gifts; it’s not a fluke. Cherish and embrace that and own your greatness. It is then that you will realize your dreams and desires.

“I want to challenge you to take bigger steps, to recognize that you are truly brilliant. And then you need to challenge each other to be brilliant.”
The Richard Allen Leadership Academy is a charter school started by Miami Gardens-based Mount Hermon AME Church. Young said most of the 99 students already know where they will attend college.“We are going to say no to the world, you cannot just take our boys,” the executive director, the Rev. Paul R. Wiggins, added. “I will place any of these scholars against anyone (else) and they will shine.”

Joshua is among them. Next school year, he will attend Miami Arts Charter School, to pursue his dream of becoming an artist.
Christopher Spence of Miramar is another student who is shining at the academy. His father, Terry Parker, said before he enrolled him in the third grade, Christopher was earning D’s and F’s. “His behavior, attitude, walk and talk — all that has changed since he’s been here,” Parker said. “The school has worked alongside me, reinforced my values, and made this happen.”

This school year, Parker said, Christopher, now a fourth-grader, earned a score of 5 on the FCAT exam.

Cynthia Roby may be reached at