Uncertain and trying times can often unearth painful truths. That has certainly been the case with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused an immense and immeasurable loss of life and exposed gaping systemic racial disparities.
Looking to bridge the education gap is Nicoshia Wynn, who recently announced the launch of Relentless Academy, a youth arts and education summer program designed to address the needs she and her husband discovered when searching for educational summer programs for her kids.
Wynn, a mother of three, was born in Danville, Ill., raised in Milwaukee, and has resided in the Twin Cities since 2006. She recently spoke to the MSR about her motivation and vision for the school, and how the community can get involved.
MSR: How did the idea for Relentless Academy come about?
NW: I went to arts school and was part of Boys and Girls Clubs, all of which—outside of my parents and church—contributed to the person I am today. So, when my husband and I looked into our kids going to youth summer camp, there was no academic tutoring, nothing like extracurricular activities that included robotics or anything of that nature. You have to pay extra for it. I have three kids and we were like, man, we’re paying a ridiculous amount of money for social camps.
I live in the Brooklyn Center area; there is really no programs like the one I’m getting ready to launch out here. St. Paul and Minneapolis are saturated with all types of programs that are somewhat of this nature. For our kids of color—if you’re not under the poverty threshold—scholarships are non-existent.
And then on top of that, when I started researching where our kids of color are at regarding math and reading proficiency in the state of Minnesota, I was super bothered at the fact that kids of color were last on the list pre-COVID, and sho’ nuff, during COVID, they really are behind.
MSR: What can students expect from the program? How did you go about getting the teachers and curriculum?
NW: They can expect highly trained teachers and curriculum focused on S.M.A.R.T.— science, math, art, reading, and technology— and we’re also trying to include financial literacy. We’re really focusing on math and reading because that is where our kids struggle. So, math and reading are every day, with the exception of “Fun Day Friday.” I have teachers on board right now. Matter of fact, one of the educators on my board right now actually won “Teacher of the Year” in Georgia in 2017. She specializes in reading and literacy.
MSR: How did you go finding the educators?
NW: So, this teacher just happened to work with my son. She worked with my son and in the short time that she worked with him, she made a big difference. She has a fundamental understanding of how to decode words. She taught me stuff that I didn’t know [Laughs].
So just talking to her about a summer program, our ideas sorta aligned. She said, ‘You know there’s nothing in Minnesota that has a sorta one-stop shop [education program].
She agreed to be on the board and she’s helping to devise the curriculum, at least through the K-5 level. I also have an advisory board with Dr. Theresa Battle; she’s the superintendent of Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District. We plan to lean on her experience with our advisory board to structure our curriculum for the summer.
With that being said, we are looking for diverse teacher volunteers to be a part of the
program. They should apply via our website.
MSR: What’s the anticipated start date for the program?
NW: It will start June 14 and go through August 27.
MSR: Is this academy primarily for Brooklyn Center residents?
NW: We’re housed in Brooklyn Center. But it’s really geared towards creating programming for underserved communities. So, it’s not for just Brooklyn Center residents, but for residents in Hennepin County. I just chose Brooklyn Center to bridge the gap between Minneapolis and St. Paul because there aren’t programs like this in Brooklyn Center and the Northwest Metro.
MSR: So Relentless Academy is housed in another center?
NW: Yes, we partnered with a local church in Brooklyn Center that has allowed us to
use the space for free. The church itself is great; we can do whatever we need to do in
that building. In 2022, we anticipate growth and will be looking for school or facility that
will be able to support our growth.
MSR: You have a fundraising goal for the program that is set at $100,000. How’s that going?
NW: You know my faith is one that’s incredible. We have a long way to go, but even with that, I think it’s obtainable. I know with God, all things are possible. That’s just where my faith is. So, we’re connecting with foundations, individuals, and organizations … and trying to generate some sponsorships if you will. People can donate stocks now. We have an account set up for that.
MSR: What’s the cost?
NW: It’s free for the families. The only thing they’ll have to pay is the deposit. Somewhere along the lines of a $100 deposit. It’ll be on a sliding scale. Nothing crazy.
Enrollment for Relentless Academy is set to open on March 15. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the Relentless Academy website or the school’s Facebook, IG, and Twitter social media channels. To donate, go here or here.