Tag Archives forPenTab Academy

Student Spotlight: The Garnes children (Malkia, Rukiya, Osakwe, Anaya, Ngozi, Naima and Aakil Garnes)



Student-Spotlight_blog REseizedWhen her three eldest children were ready to start their formal education, Deidre Christopher-Garnes sent them to their neighborhood district school.

It worked well for her daughters, Malkia and Rukiya. But her son, Osakwe, really struggled in the third grade.

“He needed more help in math and science,” Christopher-Garnes said. “He was falling behind. When I asked what the school could offer, they really didn’t have anything.’’

So Christopher-Garnes made up her mind. It was time to find another school.

Osakwe Garnes, left, with his mother, Deidre Christopher-Garnes.

Osakwe Garnes, left, with his mother, Deidre Christopher-Garnes.

“I just knew in my heart I needed to make a change for my son or he would fall through the cracks,’’ she said.

She turned to her church, Pentecostal Tabernacle International, which operates a small private school for children in prekindergarten through eighth grade called PenTab Academy. Christopher-Garnes, a native of Trinidad, had volunteered at the school, which serves a diverse international community, and eventually became an assistant in the VPK program.

Separated from her husband, she didn’t think she could afford private school tuition. But Principal Barbara Sharpe told her about the income-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program through Step Up For Students.

With Malkia heading into high school, Christopher-Garnes liked the idea of keeping Rukiya and Osakwe together.

“I applied for the scholarship and as a family we prayed,’’ she said. “When I did get the award letter, I started jumping up and screaming and, of course, the kids joined in. I was so excited! PenTab is our church home and now it would be our children’s school home.’’

She enrolled Osakwe and Rukiya in the fourth and fifth grades, respectively. Both children responded well to the academy’s small classes, individualized curriculum and caring teachers, who took time to understand their needs. Osakwe still struggled with math, but his seventh-grade teacher made an extra effort to work with him.

“She opened up a whole different part of how he thought about math and how he looked at it,’’ Christopher-Garnes said. “She really made a great impact on him.’’

Today, Osakwe is a sophomore at Miami Norland Senior High School, a traditional public school where Rukiya is a junior. They both earn A’s and B’s and take honors classes, said Christopher-Garnes.

A bigger school brought larger classes, but having a good foundation from PenTab helped, said Osakwe, who also plays on the junior varsity football team. Now he’s focused on earning athletic and academic scholarships to help pay for college, and appreciates the assistance he and his family received through Step Up For Students.

“It’s a big opportunity and it helps a lot,’’ Osakwe said.

DeidreChristopher-Garner with two her two daughters, left to right, at PenTab, Ngozi, 8, a third-grader, and Naima, 6, a first-grader.

Deidre Christopher-Garner with  two of her children at PenTab, left to right,  Ngozi, 8, a third-grader, and Naima, 6, a first-grader.

And PenTab truly has become a home for his family. Malkia, 23, teaches 4-year-old students in the school’s prekindergarten program. Ngozi is a third-grader and Naima is a first-grader, thanks to their scholarships. Anaya also is a Step Up scholar, but the fifth-grader moved this school year from PenTab to nearby Holy Cross Lutheran School.

“She was getting a little too comfortable with mom at school,’’ Christopher-Garnes said. “Everybody knows everybody here. I needed her to be challenged a bit more.’’

The youngest in the family, Aakil, is only 1 ½, but his mom plans to enroll him in PenTab, too, when he’s old enough.

“Without the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, I would not be able to afford to have them in these wonderful learning environments – environments I can trust,” Christopher-Garnes said.

Have you seen the scholarship in action, or do you have an idea for a story?  Please contact Sherri Ackerman, public relations manager, at sackerman@StepUpForStudents.org.







School Spotlight: PenTab, Miami Gardens


When PenTab Academy opened 13 years ago inside a Miami Gardens church, it had one teacher and five students.

The school was part of a ministry led by Pastor Robert Stewart of Pentecostal Tabernacle International. He turned his office into a classroom to provide the congregation and community with a safe place for children to grow academically and spiritually.

By the end of its first year, PenTab added eight more students. Today there are 256 boys and girls in prekindergarten through 8th grade filling 10 classrooms – part of a church expansion that incorporated a neighborhood strip mall at 18415 N.W. 7th Ave.

“Parents began to search us out because they wanted something better for their children,” said Barbara Sharpe, who became principal in 2005 and now oversees 25 teachers and five administrators. “Many students were not meeting success – academic or behavioral. ’’

PenTab Academy Principal Barbara Sharpe

PenTab Academy Principal Barbara Sharpe

PenTab offers individualized instruction, a Christian-based curriculum, small classes and teachers who reflect the diverse international community served by the school.

Sharpe counts students and staff from her homeland of Jamaica, the Bahamas, Haiti, Trinidad, Guyana and the United States.

Enrollment also has increased due to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, she said, with 156 students receiving the income-based tuition assistance program through Step Up For Students. Annual tuition is $4,820 plus fees.

“Many of our families could not afford a private school education for their children without the scholarship,’’ Sharpe said.

A member of Pentecostal Tabernacle, she stepped up to serve as PenTab principal after almost six years teaching third through fifth grades at traditional public schools. Sharpe viewed the vacancy as a calling.

“I came to a private school because I believe in the mission of small schools,’’ she said. “I believe in educating the whole child – academically, emotionally and spiritually.’’

PenTab offers students in K-8 the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum, instruction used by many Christian schools and homeschoolers that is designed to help students master one content area before moving to the next.

“We provide a diagnostic test, determine their needs, then implement an academic plan,’’ Sharpe said. “They won’t be promoted unless they have demonstrated at least 80 percent mastery in all content areas.’’

This approach works well for struggling and high-achieving students, she said. Slower learners can work at their own pace until they grasp the lesson while advanced learners can move ahead if they’re ready.

Learning gains are measured annually by the national Stanford Achievement Test. PenTab also started participating this school year in Success Partners, a free program from Step Up For Students that provides professional development and software to help spur parental engagement and assess student data.

In addition, PenTab offers Spanish, music and P.E. Although the school continues to grow, Sharpe said it has retained that neighborhood feel that lets her and her staff observe students’ individual talents. During a recent holiday performance, Sharpe got to see one of her fifth-graders dance – a skill even his mother wasn’t aware he had.

“That’s what I like about a small setting,’’ Sharpe said. “It gives you an opportunity to know each student and help them develop to their fullest potential.’’

Want to nominate a school for a profile? Tell us why in an email and send it to Sherri Ackerman, public relations manager, at sackerman@sufs.org.



Southern Wine & Spirits of America Celebrates $100 Million Commitment to the Step Up For Students Scholarship Program with a Statewide Book Drive


SWSASouthern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. (Southern), the nation’s leading wine and spirits distributor, on Nov. 30 celebrated its $100 million tax redirection commitment to the Step Up For Students Scholarship Program for the 2015-16 school year with a statewide book drive hosted by its employees. This is Southern’s sixth year participating in the Step Up For Students Scholarship Program, bringing the company’s total contribution to $190 million since 2011.

“At Southern, we know that education is invaluable, and that a quality education offers a world of possibilities,” said Southern CEO Wayne E. Chaplin. “As a leader in our industry and in our local community, we take great pride in leading the way to support Step Up For Students, and in providing thousands of deserving Florida children with scholarships for the 2015-16 school year.”

In recognition of the scholarship contribution, Southern’s employee-driven volunteer group, the VolunCheers, held a statewide book drive during National Literacy Month in September. The VolunCheers program was created to encourage Southern’s employees to donate their time, resources and talent in support of local nonprofit organizations, schools and community -ased programs.


Southern Wine’s historic $100 million contribution to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. The donation will help Step Up For Students fund 17,000 scholarships for children from low-income families. The presentation took place at PenTab Academy in Miami Gardens, where Southern Wine also donated more than 500 books.

The books were presented to schools in five Florida cities – Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland and Jacksonville – and included Southern VolunCheers in each city visiting local classrooms to read to the students.

“Southern Wine & Spirits continues to demonstrate their commitment to our Florida communities through their incredible generosity and care for Florida students. With this remarkable donation, thousands upon thousands of scholarships will be awarded to Florida students,” said Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up For Students. “We are grateful for our partnership with Southern and, along with our Step Up families, are deeply appreciative of their tremendous support in creating brighter futures for these students and their families.”

Step Up For Students helps administer the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to qualified low-income families throughout Florida. Scholarships are funded by corporations that receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their contributions. The program allows recipients to choose either a scholarship to help with private school tuition and fees, or a transportation scholarship to assist with transportation costs to an out-of-district public school.

During the 2015-16 school year, Step Up For Students expects to serve more than 77,000 students throughout Florida, with more than 17,000 who will directly benefit from Southern’s $100 million contribution. In Miami-Dade County this school year, more than 380 schools participate in the program with more than 20,000 students benefiting.

About Step Up For Students
Step Up For Students is a nonprofit organization responsible for helping administer the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The scholarship program is available to students who qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch and students who are in foster care or who are homeless. It provides tuition assistance to the private school of their parents’ choice or transportation help to an out-of-district public school. Scholarships are funded by corporations that receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their contributions.

Step Up For Students also helps administer state-funded Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSA) for Florida students with special needs. With the PLSA’s, recipients may use the funds for a variety of services including private tutoring, occupational therapy, instructional materials and other services.

For more information, visit: http://www.StepUpForStudents.org.

About Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc.
Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. is the nation’s largest wine and spirits distributor and broker with operations in 35 markets. The multi-state distributor currently operates in: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. Southern also holds operating licenses and permits in Nebraska and Texas. On a national basis, Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. employs more than 14,000 team members. Southern urges all retail customers and adult consumers to market, sell, serve and enjoy its products responsibly. For more information about Southern and its responsible consumption program, visit: http://www.southernwine.com.