Leaders are achievers, according to studies that show that early experiences in life impact adult achievement. One local high school, Cody Academy of Public Leadership, has been making noteworthy strides to incubate future leaders right here in Detroit. –Editor Cody Academy of Public Leadership (Cody APL) students don’t think of one another as just students inside a school building. They think of themselves as a small neighborhood or a family. And they believe that tight-knit culture is part of what makes the school a success.
“Because we are put into small cohorts as we enter APL as freshmen, I have a very strong, close relationship with my classmates and my teachers,” student Torrianna Bradley said. Cody APL, one of three small schools located at the Cody High School campus, is considered a small community school consisting of about 400 students where freshmen will travel through their entire high school career with the same classmates and teachers.
“The culture at Cody APL is pretty much like a family,” said senior Brandon Rutland. “We move together as a group, as a unit. We call the Cody Campus our city.” Within that city, students and staff work collectively to ensure every student succeeds, starting with the way the curriculum in structured. One of DPS’ nine Detroit Rising self-governing schools, Cody APL is a college preparatory school where students practice two-hour block scheduling and rotate classes according to days instead of hours.
This method adjusts students’ mindsets to think and act as if they were attending a college or university. “You don’t understand how ready I am for college!” Bradley expressed excitedly. Along with their college-like curriculum, Cody APL students attend frequent college tours and take part in dual enrollment to aid in college readiness. Bradley, a driven 11th grader and the President of Cody APL’s Safety Ambassadors group, which consists of students who analyze the city and come up with strategies to make it better, said that she doesn’t believe she would have received as many real-world opportunities as she has had if she did not attend Cody APL. “I got my first job in the summertime thanks to Principal Johnathon Matthews!
He believes in putting us into situations and positions that we might see in the future in order to become a positive and productive leader,” Bradley said. Definition-Leader Most schools are defined by their name, Rutland explained, and attending an Academy of Public Leadership means that The Leadership Edge the school’s focus is not solely on academics, but the community and how the students associate themselves with the real world. “Cody APL is mainly defined by what we do, we capture people’s attention,” Rutland confidently said. “APL students take pride in being a leader, being positive, being mature, and taking ownership and control of any situation so that we can get to where we want to be in our lives.”
Students dive into their community by volunteering with organizations such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters and work with companies including Deloitte and Ernst & Young, to learn first-hand what it takes to become a community leader. “What does it take to be a leader? First, always be yourself, and always do what’s best for you. If you are really about professionalism and want to become a business man or woman when you get older APL is for you, and those are the results you will get from going here,” Rutland said. Principal Matthews said a great leader has three core characteristics: grit, focus and purpose.
He believes that these characteristics exist in every child, and it is the educator’s responsibility to bring them out. “Our students are focused on developing themselves but even bigger than that, how they are going to serve their community as leaders. Students are taught to better themselves and also others around them,” said Matthews. Cody APL students work closely with city officials and the Wayne State University Law School. In addition to career shadowing, students are able to contribute their ideas, plans and actions for their community. “The students aren’t just protesting when they work with city officials, they create answers and policies, and are the active ones at the table for community initiatives,” Matthews added.
Dual enrollment, on-line learning, criminal justice, law and a mock trial program are a few of the offerings students have the opportunity to take part in on a daily basis. Cody APL’s Mock Trial team has competed at the national level for the past two years and the school’s Michigan Youth and Government team won the best prosecutor award for the 2012-13 school year. “We are unique in that we offer a curriculum that is really aimed at providing our young people the opportunity to create and initiate policy,” Matthews said. Aside from APL’s academics, the school has an active chorus that performs throughout the state and has a partnership with the Detroit Arts League, which allows Cody APL students to attend Saturday classes at the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Center.
At the center, the students can explore many different forms of art, dance and music and also get professional training. “Students have a craving to express themselves. So knowing that, we work with outside partners such as the InsideOut Literary Arts Program where our students can participate in activities including poetry slams,” Matthews said. Seamless Community Connections Principal Matthews said when Cody APL was created, the goal was to “create a school that is bigger than itself, a school that is about its community.” Students have built strong partnerships with surrounding organizations such as Don Bosco Hall, where students work at the center after school tutoring middle school students. “We have approximately 100 students that work at Don Bosco Hall during the summer, and they work with other young people as mentors to the upcoming youth. We are starting to see that many of those same students that were being tutored are coming into APL as ninth-graders, so you will see that there is this seamless connection between Don Bosco Hall and Cody APL,”
Matthews said. Bradley recently received the Trail Blazer Award, which is granted to the most participating volunteer! “Not your old Cody” Ranking amongst the top 50 high schools in the state with 98 percent of its students going to college and listed as a promising school, according to Excellent Schools Detroit, this is not your old Cody. Principal Matthews explained that Cody APL is in the Cody/Rouge neighborhood for a reason, and that reason is to develop leaders that are prepared to become assertive members of the community. Cody APL is showing meaningful gains in all aspects from attendance to test scores to college acceptance; students are taking measurable steps forward to become leaders in the district and the community. Something you didn’t know… Cody APL students are published poets. Students work with the InsideOut Literary Arts Program to publish a book annually.
Editor’s Note: Cody Academy of Public Leadership is located at 18445 Cathedral Street in Detroit. For additional information call: 313.852.6612