Pennsylvania philanthropists give millions in ‘education innovation’ awards



Thirty-three different educational institutions received a share of $13 million from a Pennsylvania-based family in recognition of their innovative methods.

Referred to as the “Pulitzer of Education Innovation,” the $1 million Yass Prize went to Valiant Cross Academy, an all-boys Christian school based in Montgomery, Alabama.

“This is so amazing, I’m so excited,” Anthony Brock, co-founder and executive director of the academy, said at the Dec. 13 awards ceremony. “I want to give this opportunity to every boy of color in America. I’m going to go back and work even harder. Thank you Janine and Jeff Yass, Jeanne Allen, and the Yass Prize team!”

Located across from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s church, the private academy has educated young Black men since its initial sixth-grade class in 2015, which graduated in 2022. The school boasts “distinct uniforms, an effective consequence and reward system, and an intense focus on the academic success of our scholars.”

According to their website, Valiant Cross has “double the math and triple the literacy time, differentiated instruction, aggressive tutoring, a daily after-school program and chapel service.”

The award – in its third year – is sponsored by Janine and Jeff Yass, Pennsylvania-based philanthropists also of the Yass Foundation for Education.

“Valiant Cross Academy represents the gold standard of education innovation in America,” said Janine Yass. “Our goal is to accelerate all our prize winners’ efforts to scale up and drive impact in the lives of the students they serve. America’s children desperately need innovative solutions to overcome the learning loss and falling test scores observed over the past several years.”

The 2022 grand prize went to the Arizona Autism Charter Schools.

In addition to the top award, nine semifinalists went home on Dec. 13 with $500,000.

They are, according to the news release:

Black Pastors United for Education, a network of innovative hybrid learning centers embedded in churches in communities with failing education infrastructure.Cristo Rey Network, an innovative and disruptive faith-based high school network transforming the landscape of opportunity for the least advantaged youth.Detroit Achievement Academy, a Detroit, Michigan-based charter school network that champions the mastery of knowledge and skills, character development, and high-quality work.National Fellowship for Black and Latino Male Educators, a national nonprofit that aims to address the underrepresentation of Black and Latino men in America’s education community.Odyssey, a tech startup that developed and operates a payment management platform for states designed to help families by distributing Education Savings Account and microgrant program.Odyssey Charter School, an independent charter in Wilmington, DE, that instills a love for and proficiency in the classics, languages, and democracy among typically underserved student funds.St. George Municipal School Unit, a Maine public school district that provides students with classroom rigor, career-orientation, and experiential learning opportunities.The Melanin Village, a New Jersey-based organization addressing the growing demand by Black and Brown moms to educate their children at home by providing parents with the resources they need to provide an outstanding education.West Virginia Academy, a groundbreaking success story that defeated special interest’s fierce takedown attempts to become the Mountain State’s first charter school.

Twenty-three other institutions were each awarded $200,000 through the Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless – or STOP – education award.

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