Students are drawn to Wake Young Men's Leadership Academy for different reasons.
Some seek out the academic rigor and opportunity for college credits the Early College track provides. The school is for grades 6-12, with juniors and seniors pursuing as many as 16 college credits per semester at nearby St. Augustine's University.
Others thrive within the smaller class sizes, which afford ample opportunity for one-on-one interaction with teachers. The school has an enrollment of 255 across six grades; it never will be larger than 350.
"The smaller setting allows me to get to know not only the students but their families and developing those relationships that are so crucial in the development of our young people," says Principal Ian Solomon.
And, yes, there are those who find renewed drive and focus in the single-gender environment.
Whatever gets them in the door, students ultimately find they benefit from all of this. And something else, too: Brotherhood, a word that's heard often within the halls of this historic school building in downtown Raleigh.
"Here, it's really a brotherhood," says sophomore Kori Vernon, 15, who has attended WYMLA since entering as a 7th grader in 2012, the year the school opened. "Once you've been together this amount of time, we're all really close."
Students work together on a variety of service projects, including packing 10,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now and quarterly upkeep work at nearby Chavis Park.
Kori and fellow sophomore Max Varani worked together on a project to teach students at Hunter Elementary.
"It's been amazing," Max says of his experience. "This is truly a great school."
The Extra Mile
Both Kori and Max mentioned teacher's willingness to put in extra work with students at lunch and after school.
Math teacher Stuart Gordon, the school's reigning Teacher of the Year, is no exception.
He says he's learned to harness the energy that a classroom full of boys exudes.
Some research indicates that some students, particularly male students, learn better if they're able to move around a bit.
Gordon allows for that in a variety of ways, including with something he calls "Mathsketball." Students are divided into teams and given math problems. A correct answer allows a team member to take a shot on the mini-hoop Gordon set up in the classroom.
Introducing activity and competition motivates his students to delve into their work, Gordon says.
"It's just about directing that energy they bring and using it to help their instruction," he says.
Pay Us a Visit
Learn more by attending the school's Open House on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m.
If you can't make it that night, call 919-664-5644 to schedule a tour.
'A Feeling of Professionalism'
Kori and Max at first were a bit skeptical about the dress code at Wake Young Men's Leadership Academy. When they arrived in 2012, students were required to wear a tie four days a week.
"But after a few weeks, you realize it's not such a big deal," Kori says. "It actually gives you ownership of your school."
"You feel more like you're in charge," Max adds. "It gives you a feeling of professionalism."
Principal Solomon notes that students came to him last year – in a very professional manner – and asked for the policy to be relaxed.
The school has a leadership focus, and Solomon was impressed with how his students broached the subject.
He agreed to change the policy so ties are only required on "Well Dressed Wednesdays." Oxford shirts or golf shirts with the school logo are required on other days.
Kori has taken to wearing a tie on days when he has an important test or other days where he just wants to be at his sharpest.