Angela Hardgrave “We believe that everyone is created in God’s image, and African American young men are definitely not anexception. We are out to prove that there is not an achievement gap as much as it is an opportunity gap. Our goal is to level the playing field by exposing our young men to as much as possible in a highly-rigorous academic setting.” These words by Anthony Brock, principal and co-founder of Valiant Cross Academy, capture the dream that came alive for Brock and his brother, Fred, when they founded the academy in 2015 with the goal to educate and shape the lives of young men in Montgomery.
Valiant Cross Academy is an all-male private school based on Christian principles with “an intentional culture of structure and discipline.” It is located on Dexter Avenue in downtown Montgomery in the old historic Dexter Avenue Methodist Church. At its founding in 2015, the academy had thirty students. Kimberly Baker, director of development, said, “Anthony and Fred Brock went door to door to find the first thirty students. Both men were concerned with the low college-readiness rate of African American males in Montgomery and the challenges that they face. Now we have three grades, sixth through eighth, with ninety students—thirty per grade and two classes per grade. We have a waiting list of hundreds. We plan to add a grade each year until we have reached twelfth grade.”
The dream of adding a high school will now be realized, thanks to a partnership with Troy University. Beginning in August of 2018, Valiant Cross Academy’s high school will be located on the campus of Troy University in downtown Montgomery. “We were looking for a building for about a year. We were worried because we were out of space. Now we have an amazing partnership that will be a win-win situation for both Valiant Cross and Troy. Troy will offer our scholars services on a university level, including instruction,foreign-language classes from the Confucius Institute, and access to the university’s library and Rosa Parks Museum,” said Baker. Anthony Brock knows this partnership will be highly beneficial to their scholars and will make the goal of a college education an attainable reality in their lives. “We are blessed to partner with Troy University to house our high school. I am happiest that the scholars will have the opportunity to be on a college campus everyday throughout their high school career. We are looking forward to possibly creating student observation and internship opportunities, dual enrollment for our scholars, and also the chance to look at foreign-language offerings on campus. Troy University has graciously opened their doors and all of our minds to endless possibilities,” said Brock.
The effect on the lives of the young men and their families has been incredible, and it is evident in every area of their lives. Brock said, “I have seen a tremendous amount of growth from the young men who attend Valiant Cross Academy. I am proud to say that I see the most growth in their spirituality, maturity and academic prowess. We are also very happy with the parental support we receive. Our parents are just as hungry to see their young men succeed as we are. It is a true collaboration. The adults connected to the young men have also seen growth. When you sacrifice yourself daily in every way possible to pour into the lives on our scholars, it quickly becomes a labor of love that changes you forever. The scholars were already awesome young people who we are honored to work with every day.” Baker shares the same outlook on the strides they have made in these young lives. She said, “They are challenged academically, but also taught to be leaders and good men—good husbands, fathers and members of their community. They help more at home and are more respectful, both at home and in public. Anthony and Fred Brock have become father figures to them. They are teaching them character, integrity, respect and love. The scholars are told that they are loved daily. They also have each others’ backs and have formed a brotherhood with each other...a connection they will always have.”
Not only has Valiant Cross changed the lives of their students and families, it has also had an impact on our city. The students are invited to be speakers at community events. There is a waiting list for volunteers, and they regularly have visitors stop by to see the work that’s happening there. Baker said, “Mayor Todd Strange pops by often to say hi. We’ve even had NFL players stop by to visit. It’s happened somuch that the scholars aren’t even fazed by it anymore. I’ve seen grown men cry seeing these boys all together.” Their impact is reaching beyond the River Region, however. They are competing against larger cities for national grants that use a voting platform. Within the last six months, the community has pulled together to vote, and Valiant Cross has risen to the top of the voting platform. All of the academy’s fundingis from private donors—there are no federal dollars received. They raise funds through corporations, grants and individual donors. Some students are able to take advantage of the Alabama Accountability Act, which is a state-funded scholarship program. As with most organizations that are privately funded, money is their biggest challenge. That’s where you can help! To find out more about donating to this
worthwhile cause, email Kimberly Baker firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out their website atvaliantcross.org.
The faculty and staff of Valiant Cross see great things for their students’ futures, and they plan to stand behind and support them for as long as they can. They are changing lives so that these young men can go out and change the world. As Kimberly Baker said, “God has truly blessed this place.”