- Highland Junior High
GPS teams up with Legacy Sports USA to expand Performance Academy
Balancing a student’s academic and athletic responsibilities can be a juggling act for families. From navigating everyone’s schedules to remembering important deadlines, the growing list of ‘To Do’ items can cause quite a bit of stress for any household. Gilbert Public Schools and Legacy Sports USA are coming together for a new opportunity that will meet the needs of these families and provide support as their students strive for excellence.
Gilbert Public Schools is expanding the Performance Academy starting in the 2022/23 school year. The Performance Academy began four years ago at Mesquite Elementary under the leadership of Principal Dawn Koberstein, who realized there was a group of students and families in her community involved in competitive club sports and performing arts.
“I had a niche of families that didn’t want to leave Mesquite, but they were involved in these programs and needed support,” she said.
As a result, the Performance Academy was formed to serve students in grades 4-8. Students enrolled in the academy divide their days between academics and athletic or performing arts training. Their mornings consist of individual learning, group learning, or direct instruction. In the afternoons, they head to their training facility, where they can focus on developing their talent and skills. The Performance Academy merges the best of both worlds, providing students with the chance to continue training at a high-level while also having the traditional experience of going to school with their peers.
“Sometimes families just want something different that’s not completely online,” Koberstein said.
After early success, the Performance Academy is now going to the next level. Starting with students in seventh and eighth grades transitioning to South Valley Junior High. They’ll get to learn with their peers in classrooms as well as participate in junior high sports, electives and clubs. Principal Jonathan Schley is ready to welcome the Performance Academy students and families to his campus, and he’s looking forward to watching the program grow.
“I want to feel that energy and have those kids walk on campus and feel proud of their experience,” Schley said.
Starting in the new school year, in the afternoons, all Performance Academy students will have the choice of attending their own training or performing arts facility, or opting to join the new Legacy Sports USA Sports Enrichment Program at Bell Bank Park in Mesa. It is the largest sports and entertainment facility in North America, sprawling across 320 acres of land. Students enrolled in the Sports Enrichment Program can choose from more than a dozen sports and train with world-renowned coaches, including an Olympian and a former WNBA player. While at the facility, students will also receive academic support and tutoring from two certified teachers, nutritional education and be given food for refueling after their training session.
“The schedule is designed to take the pressure off of the students, so when they are done with their day, they aren’t going home with a whole lot that they still have to do,” said Renae Cruz, dean of students at South Valley Junior High.
Koberstein believes that peer support also plays a big role in the success of academy students. They are going through a shared experience and can rely on one another for help and encouragement.
“There is a sense of camaraderie. They really work well together and support each other,” she said.
The Performance Academy classroom at Mesquite Elementary is a large spacious area designed to help meet the needs of active athletes. The room has traditional desks and flexible seating options, such as ball chairs, floor mats, wobble stools, couches and even a small trampoline. There are areas for individual and group learning as well as direct instruction from a teacher.
“We make it comfortable, so the kids have the ability to move around and release energy,” Koberstein said.
The Performance Academy is not just for star athletes, but for student athletes of all performance levels. Schley, Cruz and Koberstein believe every student has something to gain and learn from this educational experience, including valuable life skills such as discipline, cooperation, accountability and time management. The Performance Academy will help prepare students to be leaders in and out of the classroom, and give them the tools to be successful.
“What matters to families and students is what matters to us,” Cruz said, “This gives us another avenue to showcase the standard of excellence that Gilbert Public Schools has to offer.”