Meeting Street Academy celebrates major milestone

Story by Jen Jordan / June 2, 2015

As Kimberly Manigault-Claiborne began thinking last year about what she wanted her son Peter’s final year of elementary school to be like, she decided she wanted something that would challenge him.

So she moved him to Meeting Street Academy in downtown Charleston from Goodwin Elementary School in North Charleston.

“I knew what he was capable of doing, and I wanted more educational-wise for him,” Manigault-Claiborne said. “I wanted a school that could pull all that out of him.”

On Wednesday, Manigault-Claiborne was among more than 50 parents, teachers and supporters cheering on the first graduating class of fifth-graders at the private downtown Charleston school.

Rain and thunder couldn’t dim the enthusiasm under the tent just off Meeting Street where Charleston Mayor Joe Riley congratulated the students for being the first, saying “you are here because of the dreams of many people.”

The school, which serves students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, opened in 2008 with the goal of helping what school leaders call “under-resourced” children achieve academic success.

The actual cost to attend the school is $11,500 a year, but families pay what they’re able to afford. Most of the school’s 146 students pay about $400 a year.

Riley called the school an “ambitious” dream of founder Benjamin Navarro, chief executive officer of Charleston-based Sherman Financial Group, who set out to build a successful elementary school in a historically low-income neighborhood. The school is open to any student but largely serves kids from downtown Charleston and North Charleston.

The fifth-graders sang uplifting songs before receiving their diplomas, then proceeded out of the tent amid hugs and high-fives from parents, teachers and fellow students.

The milestone is critical in validating the academy’s efforts. Meeting Street Schools, which runs the academy, is using a similar model at Meeting Street Elementary @ Brentwood in North Charleston, which is a traditional public school. Both schools operate on an extended school year, and have pre-kindergarten. And all students have access to an extended day program with tutoring and extracurricular activities.

Many of Meeting Street Academy’s 14 fifth-graders are going on to attend various private schools on merit-based scholarships. Several students are headed to magnet schools or charter schools.

Student Imani Hurley, who was among the first students to enroll in the academy in 2008, will head to Charleston Catholic School in the fall.

Imani’s mother, Dawnette Hurley, said she is “beyond happy” with the results of her decision to send her daughter to the new school seven years ago.

“My daughter has grown tremendously at Meeting Street Academy as far as academics, as far as a person,” the downtown Charleston mother said. “There’s nothing she can’t accomplish from this very first foundation.”

Principal Dirk Bedford acknowledged the fifth-graders’ academic achievements, saying many met or exceeded their goals for reading and math, with more than 50 percent of students scoring in the 85th percentile for those subjects. Some students ended the school year studying sixth- or even seventh-grade level subjects.

But scholastic achievement is only part of the equation, with Bedford noting “it’s equally important to us to be helping our kids become amazing human beings.”

The point, Bedford said, is to show that all students — no matter their background — can be successful in school. And that’s what the principal hopes this first class of fifth-graders will prove to the community.

“We want them to go out and show everybody what every single child is capable of,” he said.

The Post and Courier

By: Amanda Kerr


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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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“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

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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