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Small private school in Wichita gets big boost in helping serve its students

Wade Moore.jpeg
Carla Eckels
Wade Moore, Dean of Urban Preparatory Academy.

Wichita's Urban Preparatory Academy was awarded a $500,000 prize.

A small private school in Kansas got a huge surprise last month. Wichita's Urban Preparatory Academy won a half-a-million-dollar prize. The funds from the Yass foundation will be used for upgrades at the K-8 school, founded in 2014. For this edition of In The Mix, Carla Eckels starts her day at Urban Prep...

Interview Highlights:

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Courtesy photo
Dean Wade Moore [Right] with Yass Prize Grant Manager Jeanne Allen [Left]

CARLA ECKELS: Was this the first time the students heard about the award?

WADE MOORE: Yes. We received the award [on] December 15, and I was in New York and that was the last day of school and so I did not have the opportunity to share it with them ... today was the first day that they heard about it. Our school was recognized as a Yass finalist. The Yass Prize depends on four principles; it's called STOP: sustainability, transformation, outstanding and permissionless. With the Yass Award, it shows that we are one of the top innovative schools in the nation. Ninety-nine percent of our children are on scholarships, and we work real hard to raise money so that our children have this opportunity. This little, small school in Northeast Wichita, hidden among houses. We are a very up-and-coming school.

What do you plan to do with the funds?

We want to upgrade our technology. We're still using the same technology that we used when we started the school... We want to upgrade our infrastructure to handle that online presence.

We're the only private school in Kansas that does full transportation... About 80% of our students depend on transportation. We run five bus routes and they're all full and we have a waiting list. When we talk about transportation, what we do is we go to the actual residence, we go to their door, and we pick those students up every day and we take them home, so we want to upgrade our transportation.

We want to scale up to high school. We have some parents that want their children to finish their K-12 education here at Urban Prep. So, we're going to scale up, with ninth grade and then 10th up, through high school and we're looking at opening up a second campus in south Wichita at our church.

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Carla Eckels
Wade Moore shares the news of the Yass Prize, a half-a-million dollars, to aid the private school.

You mentioned earlier an inventor's lab for students.

Yes. Children like we saw this morning; they are so creative. They have so many ideas and you hear about these young people across the nation that come up with these fantastic ideas and inventions.

And so, I want to be the one to encourage our children here in Wichita, Kansas that they have these brilliant ideas to create this inventor's lab, have them write down what it is they want and to help them through that whole process. Help them build a model, help them go through the whole process, help them get capital and to bring that to market.

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Carla Eckels
Students at Urban Preparatory School participate in morning motivation, a weekday ritual intended to the get K-8th grade students prepared for a good start before class.

What is it about young people? You've been a youth pastor in the past. You've grown up in Arkansas and are now living in Wichita. You're leading a church, as well as a school. What is it about young people that draws you?

Well, I look back at my childhood and we grew up very poor in rural Arkansas, in Mississippi County, one of poorest counties. And I not just saw the struggle, I was in the struggle and there were no jobs and so my father had to be an entrepreneur.

He had a disability my father; could not hear, and he was old. I'm the son of his old age and, so [I] saw him just do whatever he had to do to take care of our family ... I guess that got into me at a young age.

And I just started doing things at a young age and I said, "Okay, I'm going to take my experience and share it with children and let them know that they can get started." And somehow, I don't know, children are just drawn to me, and I'm drawn to them. I really want to be an advocate for children and youth.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.