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Alabama’s Valiant Cross Academy works to propel young men to greatness

The world’s next Nelson MandelaBryan Stevenson or Booker T. Washington might just hail from Montgomery, Alabama.

Indeed, a generation of remarkable young men is being trained at Valiant Cross Academy, where daily learning is steeped in discipline and self-worth. It seems fitting that the state capitol is home to a school that provides outstanding education while providing boys with strong values on which to build their lives.

Seeing the “many obvious problems that plagued the community,” brothers Anthony and Fred Brock started their all-boys school, Valiant Cross Academy, in 2015. The Brocks and their staff of 26 daily pour their love, caring and high expectations into the boys, and encourage them to dream big dreams.

“My brother and I were so blessed to grow up with a great father,” said Anthony Brock, whose dad was a school principal for Montgomery Public Schools. “It’s a calling on my life to work with young men.”

Working in education for more than 20 years, Brock’s mission is to nurture young people. This year, Valiant Cross will set 280 students on the road to a good future. Young men entering 11th grade this year began as fifth-graders and will make up the school’s first graduating class in 2022.

“These boys are all gifted and talented,” said Brock, founder of the Brother2Brother and Sister2Sister mentoring program that meets in Montgomery and Autauga counties. “They just need someone in their community to lift them up. Valiant Cross Academy is a place where a lot of guys’ confidence grows by leaps and bounds.

“We just really love on them, intentionally,” he said. “The adults in the building tell them all day long that they love them. There’s an opportunity gap, not an achievement gap. We give them an opportunity – the first step is nurturing them.”

Not surprisingly, Valiant Cross Academy has a long wait list. With campuses in the heart of downtown – at 301 Dexter Ave. and at Troy University – this fully accredited private school puts a strong focus on ACT scores.

Their students will engage in virtual learning because of the pandemic. Classes start Aug. 10, from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Valiant Cross has offerings not seen in public schools: a Korean language class; a Cisco networking component; a partnership with Troy University for dual enrollment; and a partnership with Red Tails Scholarship Foundation flight school in Tuskegee. Sports aren’t left out: Fred Brock leads the athletic program with Willie Spears serving as football coach and Tyrone Boleware returning to coach the junior varsity championship track team.

Last year, nine or 10 boys took part in the Red Tails flight program. Four Tuskegee University students came to Montgomery to train the boys, who must first pass the ground portion of the class. Two students have been up in the air but haven’t yet soloed.

“Only 2 percent of pilots are African American,” said Brock, who graduated from Lanier High School and Alabama State University. “We’ll have anywhere from 10 to 15 students attending flight class this year. I believe we’re doing our little part to help improve the big picture.”

Getting by with a little help from some friends

The Alabama Power Foundation in 2019 awarded Valiant Cross a grant to buy PowerSchool software, which can help better prepare students for college success. The school has already begun using the software to track admissions and attendance and provide transcripts for college applications. PowerSchool can be used to help students keep up with their grades, their grade point average and ACT scores. The academy also used the grant to buy books.

Alabama Power employees have helped, as well. Southern Division Chapter members of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) have assisted the academy with several projects.

“APSO has sent crews over to cook out with the kids and clean the buildings before school starts,” Brock said. “They go out and do different projects for us. … We really appreciate that.”

Brock said the school is always in fundraising mode. The academy’s spring fundraiser was canceled because of the pandemic, and Brock is planning a fall event that will feature Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins.

Many students rely on scholarships through the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund and the Alabama Accountability Act, in which donors get a tax credit. Tuition is $6,500 for middle school and $8,000 for high school.

“We take part in the Accountability Act and a lot of guys get scholarships,” he said. The legislation provides funds to low-income students in kindergarten through 12th grade to go to a private school.

Summoning strength from on high

Everything that is done at Valiant Cross is done in an orderly fashion, and with purpose.

Brock said the staff receives “countless stories with good feedback from parents. Their young men become more respectful, they have more mature conversations and they have conversations about God.”

“We have what we call ‘Morning Village’ each morning,” he said. “That’s where we go into the church and do our mottos. The boys go up to the altar and pray and shake off any ‘cobwebs’ from home last night.”

As head of the academy, Brock daily stands with the boys as they repeat the school motto. Their message is “breathed out” in the building so much, he said, the beliefs are part of the kids: “We are Valiant Cross Academy. Our God is mighty. We will rise above with honor. We will rise above with discipline. We will rise above with integrity. We will rise above with excellence, and we will rise above with love. We are Valiant Cross Academy: in this place, young men will rise above.”

“We revisit all those five values throughout the day,” Brock said.

While he believes students at any school will do well with greater expectations, Valiant Cross sets a standard that will propel students to a higher destiny.

“I have an unwavering belief that Valiant Cross Academy will birth the next generation of great leaders,” he said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)