Dan Corley, head of school and co-founder of Community Prep, a small private middle school in South Providence, hatched the idea for the program when he grew tired of teaching at a school for juvenile boys. “It seemed foolish to be traveling every day down to Narragansett to teach students who had already gotten into a lot of trouble,” he recalls. “I thought it would be better to work with them before they got in trouble.”
 
While minority students form 81 percent of the population at Community Prep, and 90 percent of the students come from low-income families, the 24-year-old school has a high success rate in sending its graduates on to high school and college.
 
Asked why Community Prep has proven so successful in this regard, Corley says that the students, the parents, and the school are all on the same page. “When a student is coming into Commu¬nity Prep, it’s very much seen by them and their family as a giant step towards college,” he says. “And when they and their parents have that expectation and the school shares that expectation, it’s very likely to happen.”
 
It also helps that the school features small class sizes. Students at the school, which run from grades three through eight, have the benefit of learning from an expanded curriculum, which includes creative arts, computer science, and Spanish. The students are exposed to a cooperative learning process that encourages critical thinking and problem-solving, while simultaneously fostering a sense of closeness.
 
This camaraderie remains with Community Prep grads long after they’ve left the school, says Julian Dash, a ’92 CP graduate who serves on the school’s board of trustees. “A lot of people who graduated with me, we’re still friends today. Who would think that a middle school would have an alumni association that’s fairly active?”
 
Dash, who serves as director of real estate for Puente, a Providence-based company that assists nonprofits and start-up companies, felt he was more than prepared when he moved on to Hope High School, a public school in Providence. Community Prep had accelerated his math skills, allowing him to test out of classes and to intern at a local stockbrokerage firm. “Community Prep sets standards just far enough so that they’re challenging, but not out of reach,” he says. “When I got to high school, I was definitely prepared.”
 
For the students who choose to attend private high schools, the program has a similarly high rate of success. Corley says, “Basically, about 90 percent of our students have gone on to very competitive, strong, college-prep high school programs, and 82 percent of our graduates are either in college or have graduated from college.”

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