Students, parents and teachers at Executive Preparatory Academy of Finance (EPAF), a nonprofit public charter high school in Gardena, have reason to celebrate. As the school prepares to graduate its first class of seniors, it is making history. Not only will the entire senior class graduate, but each student has received early acceptance into a four-year college or university. The school is in its fourth year of operation. “This was the goal we’ve worked towards since we opened our doors, and our kids have surpassed all expectations,” says Founder and CEO Omar McGee.
EPAF is the only Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) public charter high school using a Mester system, also known as a Four by Four Block schedule, which shortens the class schedule to four periods a day and extends the length of class from 50 minutes to 90 minutes. Students are exposed to accelerated learning while receiving the individual attention needed to comprehend and advance through rigorous curriculum, in classrooms with an average of 20 students. There is a special focus on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and community, along with STEM learning across subjects. Empowering students with the use of technology in the classroom has been essential to enabling EPAF students to learn more in just two Mesters than they would in an entire school year in a traditional setting.
Average test scores in English, math and science have improved in all grade levels and EPAF is academically outperforming other schools in the South Los Angeles area. Students attending EPAF come from the surrounding neighborhoods of Watts, Inglewood, Compton, South Los Angeles and Hawthorne and are afforded a unique opportunity for a new approach to learning in EPAF. EPAF students are not just graduating, they are thriving academically as almost the entire school makes the honor roll, earning EPAF the official designation of an Honor Society School.
EPAF students are also taking what they’ve learned into their lives outside of school as several students have turned class projects into revenue-generating businesses, including a mobile barber shop and Layed Hair Company, a hair accessories shop with a storefront on El Segundo Boulevard.
“I am so proud of all of our students. We are a family that supports each other whether in class or outside of school,” says McGee. He credits the success of EPAF to the dedication of teachers and staff along with the commitment from students and parents. Evidence of this authentic interaction can be seen in the school’s engaging social media channels.