Businessman Ben Navarro Goes ‘Back To School’ For DI Speaker Series Event

Story by VFutrell / November 26, 2018

By Heath Ellison, The Daniel Island News

Ben Navarro has dipped his toes into several ventures, but is best known as a businessman and philanthropist. The entrepreneur’s career began in the finance market, took him to Citicorp and Goldman Sachs, before he began Sherman Financial Group, the business that would make him a billionaire. The company pulls an estimated $3 billion in revenue and employs over 2,000 people internationally. Navarro recently acquired ownership of Charleston Tennis LLC, which oversees operations of the Family Circle Tennis Center, Volvo Car Stadium and the Volvo Car Open.

But, instead of the wealth of business experience he could impart to young entrepreneurs, he focused on his successful education endeavors at the Daniel Island Speaker Series event on Wednesday, November 7. Navarro founded the Meeting Street Academy in 2008, and the school has branched out into campuses in Spartanburg and North Charleston.

At the event, Navarro informed his attentive audience that the school operates differently than the usual district institute. Meeting Street Academy has attempted to provide students from impoverished communities with the same education that privileged youths receive by teaching them side-by-side.

“We found a way, with the same number of staff, to teach to each group of kids, the lower kids, the medium kids, and the higher kids,” said Navarro. “And it wasn’t a dumbed down curriculum. It was just a different and more concentrated approach.”

The methodology that Navarro described was based on a scale: the greater help children need, the smaller the student-teacher ratio is. This gives more specialized attention to children that need it, and Navarro swears by the results.

“I saw kids that were energized and excited about learning,” he said. “The same kids that I had seen weeks before or months before looking around, not interested, trying to do anything other than their work, because they knew they couldn’t do it.”

Additionally, Meeting Street Academy attempts to reach kids earlier, by giving them the tools to succeed in elementary school before they go to middle and high schools. Navarro mentioned that some area high schools have a majority of AP students failing their AP exams.

“You look at these numbers and there are a lot of folks in the status quo who say ‘how do we fix this problem? We send more people to Academic Magnet.’ We don’t have to prepare them,” he said.

Navarro believes that the education students receive prior to high school is the best way to prepare them for high school and beyond.

The two Meeting Street Elementary Schools in North Charleston are considered public-private schools. Students in the same zip code as the education facility can enroll in it.

“We have an enrollment zone just like everyone else,” Navarro explained. “The district sets our enrollment zone. We take all comers, all kids who come to that school from that neighborhood. The district funds the portion that they would normally fund anyway for a school like this and we put a layer on top to do some of the things that are important to us.”

Sarah Campbell, principal of Meeting Street Elementary at Brentwood in North Charleston, attended the speaker series event and was invited by Navarro to address the audience about some of the unique aspects of her school.

“The things we do aren’t crazy different,” said Campbell. “Just some things we know that kids and families need. For example, every Friday, every kid at our school gets a brand new book, so they can build their own home library.”

Campbell’s school also provides an extended day program that gives students the opportunity to get involved in the arts, the humanities, and clubs.

“The heroes of this story are Sarah and people like Sarah,” said Navarro.

After concluding his remarks, Navarro participated in a Q&A from the audience. One participant inquired about what the plan was for students once they leave Meeting Street Academy.

“Our private school’s been around for about 10 years and we’ve been able to place every one of those kids in amazing schools,” Navarro claimed. He remains hopeful that students in Meeting Street’s public-private schools will also be successful.

One attendee asked how the schools were scaled, considering they can only take 1,200 students among the three campuses and there are thousands of students in Charleston County School District.

“The only way I know to fix a problem is to start somewhere,” Navarro responded. “Put a stake in the ground and say ‘I know we can do better as a community.’”

He added that one of the most painful parts of the job is turning down applications when the school rosters are full.

For more information on the Meeting Street Schools, visit


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About Meeting Street Schools

Meeting Street Schools (MSS) is an innovative non-profit where schools, families, and the community collaborate to create environments where all children can achieve their full potential. With a network of schools across South Carolina, including MSA-Charleston (Charleston, SC), MSA-Spartanburg (Spartanburg, SC), MS-Brentwood (North Charleston, SC), MS-Burns (North Charleston, SC), and MS-Jasper & Beaufort (Jasper, SC), we are committed to providing students with the rigorous education they deserve.

Founded on the principle that every child deserves an excellent education regardless of their socio-economic background, Meeting Street Schools has been a beacon of hope and a testament to what's possible in education. Our schools are driven by a strong focus on student achievement, evidence-based instruction, and relentless support of our students and their families.

While united by our shared mission, each MSS campus, is unique in its character, tapping into the local spirit of the communities they serve. Explore each of our schools and discover how they're creating a brighter future for students in South Carolina.

News & NotesFrom Clemson University to Master Teacher and Player Coach: Emily Godwin

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Our Schools

MSA – CharlestonDowntown Charleston, SC - Independent School - Since 2008 - 364 Students

Nestled in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, MSA Charleston is more than just a school—it’s a hub for innovative learning and community engagement. As part of the Meeting Street Schools network, MSA Charleston embodies a commitment to excellence through its rigorous academic programs, inclusive culture, and focus on developing the whole child. With a curriculum that emphasizes both academic and personal growth, MSA Charleston prepares students to be curious learners and active citizens of their community.

MSA – SpartanburgDowntown Spartanburg, SC - Public School - Since 2012 - 323 Students

MSA Spartanburg stands as a pillar of educational innovation in the Spartanburg community. The school’s dedicated educators and supportive learning environment ensure that each child receives a high-quality, personalized education with exceptional faculty and teachers. MSA Spartanburg is distinguished by its emphasis on community partnership, fostering relationships that extend beyond the classroom to build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.

MS – BrentwoodNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2014 - 694 Students

MS Brentwood is a place where education meets opportunity. Serving the Brentwood area, this school is a testament to the transformative power of education. With a student-centered approach that celebrates diversity and encourages excellence, MS Brentwood is dedicated to equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. MS Brentwood also serves as a hub for the Brentwood community to access educational and wellness services. The school’s commitment to innovation, coupled with a warm, welcoming environment, makes it a standout in the MSS network.

MS – BurnsNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2018 - 478 Students

Located in a community rich with history and culture, MS Burns is renowned for its dynamic educational approach that intertwines traditional learning with modern teaching techniques. The school’s focus on experiential learning ensures that students at MS Burns are not only recipients of knowledge but also active participants in their educational journey. MS Burns exists to spark an educational revolution for the students and families in the Dorchester-Waylyn Neighborhood in North Charleston. With a commitment to creating a supportive and challenging academic environment, MS Burns is forging a new path in public education.

MS – Jasper & BeaufortJasper County, SC - Public Charter School - Fall 2023 -

MS Jasper represents the Meeting Street Schools’ dedication to community-based education with a global perspective. The school provides a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to explore their potential and cultivate a love for learning. With its diverse programs such as Eureka Math, and Wit and Wisdom, MS Jasper puts a major emphasis on character development, specialized learning and equips students to become thoughtful, engaged members of society, reflecting the MSS ethos of empowerment through education.


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“MSA is a family. Once you’re in, you’re in. They said they would follow our kids from K-3 to college and they actually lived up to what they said they would do. Not only did MSA challenge my daughter academically but it also exposed her to new things that she probably wouldn’t have been exposed to at our previous neighborhood school. Our journey at MSA was exciting and rewarding. They actually walk the walk.”

— Tyeka GrantParent

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“Meeting Street Academy is my family. They taught me that I am valuable. I am an asset to the world…They asked me, ‘What is your dream?’ I had never been asked that before. The MSS community gives me the strength to pursue my dreams.”

— Kadelyn SteedStudent

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“We come into work everyday truly believing that our students are capable of achieving anything that is put in front of them. Here at MSS, students are provided the opportunity to achieve success through the facilitation of well-educated teachers, resources, and a responsive classroom school environment.”

— NikToshia GilesTeacher