On a quiet corner on the southeast side of Canton, Ohio, Reverend Benson Okpara sits in his office, a smile on his face as he describes his community. “We love what is ours,” he explains simply, recalling an instance when neighborhood parishioners and non-parishioners alike volunteered to help mulch the church’s flower beds. It is this sense of pride and dedication to the community that attracted charter school management organization I CAN SCHOOLS to open a new campus in the neighborhood this fall. Father Benson (as he is better known to his parishioners) is the administrator of St. Benedict Parish, which will share a building with the new elementary school.
Nigerian-born Father Benson, who came to the diocese of Youngstown nearly seven years ago, is deeply devoted to the Canton community. He says he shares the motto of the Children of Promise Neighborhood Association that cares for the surrounding area: “you don’t have to leave your place to have a better neighborhood… you can make your neighborhood a better place.” According to Father Benson, the opening of Canton College Preparatory School may help to do just that. He believes that the most important impact the new K-5 charter school will have on the area is its positive atmosphere. “This structure, seeing kids come in day and night, having activities here… it would put life into the community,” says Father Benson.
While some see charter schools as competitors to public school districts, Father Benson has a different outlook. To the community leader, opening a school in the same building as the beloved landmark church can only be a positive thing for the area. “If people have educational alternatives, then everyone will step up… it is an opportunity,” he explains. The benefits of such an opportunity, says Father Benson, are received by the entire community. “Children are the signs of tomorrow. These children, engaged in education and activities, will prove this place has the potential of surviving tomorrow.”
Canton College Preparatory School will officially open its doors to students on August 19th. To learn more about I CAN SCHOOLS and how to enroll, families may contact 1-888-977-ICAN(4226) or visit www.icanschools.org. Seats are limited and filling quickly; please enroll and become a founding family of the Canton location.
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