University Schools receive prestigious high school planning grant from NewSchools

June 18, 2020 - The University of Memphis has received a competitive, prestigious national planning grant of $100,000 from NewSchools Venture Funds to begin development of a University High School. Planning is scheduled to begin immediately and includes the development of a physical space, the school culture and an innovative school curriculum. 

NewSchools makes investments to support leaders who are creating innovative public schools that embrace an expanded definition of student success. These schools provide students with a strong academic foundation along with other mindsets, skills and habits needed for success in life.

The high school would be the latest addition to the University’s growing school compendium, rounding out the longstanding Lipman Early Learning & Research Center; Blue Ribbon-designated Campus School; University Middle, which is opening its doors to its second incoming class this fall; a newly launched partnership with the Harwood Center set to launch this fall; and a state-of-the-art infant development facility scheduled to break ground in Orange Mound in partnership with Porter-Leath this winter.  

“Our University Schools strive to provide dynamic educational experiences that not only enrich the lives of our students, but also contribute to a growing body of research, best practices and practitioner development,” said Sally Parish, associate vice president for Educational Initiatives. “Our University High School will do just that, while opening doors for inspiration and collaboration that will propel our students into colleges, careers and creations that can change the world.”

The addition of a laboratory high school allows for the University to continue expanding its reach into the community by providing quality, collaborative, innovative education focusing on the cultivation of 21st-century skills. It will extend the University’s reach from birth to graduation, with a projected total University Schools enrollment of 1,600.  

The high school will have an entrepreneurial focus with an emphasis on dual enrollment and college/career preparation. The curriculum will incorporate project-based learning with an emphasis on the skills employers are seeking in the next generation of the workforce. These skills include critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, media and technology literacy, information literacy, flexibility, leadership, initiative and social change. 

Students will collaborate closely with campus and community partners and entrepreneurs to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset. Partners include Junior Achievement, Epicenter, the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship and the newly launched Community Action and Social Change minor in the College of Professional & Liberal Studies. 

“We envision a high school that will teach our students to translate their passions to talents and ideas that can have a lasting impact on our campus and our community,” Parish said. “Students may take different paths to get there, but the goal is that each student at University High School will have the opportunity to seek an individualized educational experience in a dynamic, diverse and inventive environment that challenges and supports them every step of the way.”

University High School will seek board approval from Shelby County Schools to function as the UofM’s latest public school partnership. The school hopes to enroll 500 students, with many enrolling directly from University Middle and the surrounding campus community. 

“Students at our University High School may be the creators of the latest app, health care solution, culinary creation or nonprofit organization,” Parish added. “With our faculty and community partnerships, the sky is really the limit. Regardless of where their dreams take them, this school is assured to graduate students who are driven by doing, determined to make a difference and who will create a welcoming and inclusive community for all.”