St. George’s Memphis Addresses More Than Poverty

“St. George’s is a beacon of hope to families who know that education is the way out of the cycle of poverty.  But it’s more than that.  St. George’s provides an enriched education for both urban and suburban students – by addressing academics and how to live a meaningful life.”

So says Eric McCreight, Director of Community Relations for St. George’s Independent School, a school whose “one school/three campus” educational model is not duplicated elsewhere in the United States.

Experienced in urban ministry through his role as founder of the Memphis Area Youth Preservation Society, McCreight’s job is to nurture the relationships among students and families at the school’s original elementary campus in Germantown, the middle/upper campus in Collierville, and the urban elementary campus on Kimball Avenue in Memphis.

Memphians might have originally known St. George’s as a small, coed elementary school in Germantown.  In the 1990s, the school launched a capital campaign to build not only a new middle/upper school in Collierville but also a second elementary school in the heart of Memphis.

Funded by an initial $6 million gift from a group of local anonymous donors, the Memphis campus opened in 2001.   Private donations help the school fund the capital building projects and offer substantial scholarship assistance to families, a majority of whom qualify for the Federal free-and-reduced lunch program.

This fall the Memphis campus will serve 140 students, three-year-old prekindergarten through fifth grade.  The scholarship assistance follows the Memphis campus students as long as they remain enrolled at St. George’s.

The St. George’s commitment is long-term.  Cross-campus relationships between the suburban and urban elementary campus are nurtured through joint field trips, shared curriculum, and social events beginning in prekindergarten. Administrators say this will pay off when the students unite in middle school at the Collierville campus, beginning in 2009.

The impetus for the school’s distinctive vision of integration is both spiritual and practical.  Rooted in a mission that extols Judeo-Christian ideals, students experience regular chapel services, character education, and community service.

“Quite simply, the philosophy of the school is that all people – regardless of income, race, or background – are considered children of God,” says Chaplain and Dean of Students Justin Miller, “At St. George’s, it’s all about relationships.”

The vision is also grounded in the belief that a better world begins with future-oriented education. “We live in a global community,” said School President Bill Taylor, a seminary graduate who has chosen to fulfill his vocation in independent schools, “And the students who are in school now, I believe, need to be prepared to work competently and confidently in a community that involves great differences.”

School leaders believe that the unique “one school/three campus” model results in graduates who are better prepared for college, career, and citizenship because the school fosters meaningful relationships that cross common racial and socio-economic barriers.

St. George’s Independent School has been recognized by the National Association of Independent Schools, The New York Times, and The Commercial Appeal for its innovative approach to increasing respect and appreciation for differences and preparing students for tomorrow’s global world.

For more information about St. George’s distinctive educational model, visit www.sgis.org or contact Rick Ferguson, Executive Director of the St. George’s Foundation, at 901.261.2375 or rferguson@sgis.org.

[ photo credits to Lance Murphy ]