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The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round…And Get Students to College

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Stephanie South

Two years ago, second-year fellows were finalizing their Ferrand Fund allocation recommendations for the Trustees. Among the recommendations was a grant to Atlas Preparatory School, commonly referred to as Atlas Prep, for $16,000 to purchase a school bus.

Fast forward to April 2012. Last week, I stopped by Atlas Prep for a community impact visit regarding the grant and quickly became aware of the value of wheels. For Atlas Prep, buses mean business. For the 350 students currently enrolled at the school, transportation can be a trajectory change.

The grant was used to purchase not one but two used, 84-capacity school buses. Atlas Prep leases these buses, as well as an additional bus the school acquired, for $1 a year to Durham School Services, a full-service student transportation provider, committed to getting students to school safe, on time, and ready to learn. Durham School Services provides drivers and maintains the buses, allowing Atlas Prep to offer transportation both to and from school.

Atlas’ three buses each travel only approximately 15 miles per day on three different routes within a 3-5-mile radius of the school. However, without them, almost half of the students attending Atlas Prep would not be able to do so.

Without wheels, these students may not have had access to the excellent education that the founders of Atlas Prep—including two former fellows— are committed to providing.

Atlas Prep currently provides students in grades 5-7 with the academic preparation, character development, and the ongoing support necessary to attend and graduate from a four-year college. The school is dedicated to a college-preparatory education where students take more reading, math, and writing. In addition, students attend a longer school day and spend more time in school than a traditional calendar requires. Teachers deliver rigorous, well-planned, and engaging instruction; they ensure that students have personalized attention and offer tutoring and help with homework every day. Students wear a uniform, follow a strict code of conduct, and embody the REACH core values of respect, excellence, authenticity, curiosity, and hard work. There is a commitment by all families and staff to do whatever it takes so that all students graduate from middle school and high school, attend a four-year college, and graduate from that college. Atlas Prep will expand to eighth grade in the fall of 2012, which will bring total enrollment to about 550 students. Plans for a high school, scheduled to open in the fall of 2013, are also underway.