A Week of Giving March 6 - March 10

A Week of Giving March 6 - March 10

Welcome to our new "Week of Giving" recap! Every Monday, we'll be reporting on Giving Days from the previous week. We have some incredible partners and we work with lots of remarkable schools in Memphis and beyond; so we've decided to share our events and photos with you! 

This week, representatives from the YMCA, Regions, and Nike visited Memphis Delta Preparatory and man, did we have fun. We sang songs, hung out with the kids and learned about MDP's truly impactful education philosophy. Check out this week's gallery below! 

Introducing: Tier One

Introducing: Tier One

Our new line of small-batch Tshirts are now available at the Rev! For every shirt purchased, Agape North will donate one high quality uniform shirt to a student in an underserved area here in Memphis. It's really that simple. No hassle. No politics. No hidden fees. Just giving. 

Houston Middle and Freedom Prep: Together We Are Better

Michael Ruiz, Houston Middle Assistant Principal, engaging in conversation with Freedom Prep scholars during Houston's annual Giving Day with Agape North.

It really started about 3 years ago.  I was a brand new administrator at Houston Middle School, and Agape North was a fairly new company looking to make connections with local schools.  I met Joe Williams in my office, and he began sharing his vision for how Agape North, a custom apparel company, could partner with Houston Middle School to give school uniform shirts to local students in underserved areas.  Growing up as a missionary kid in Taiwan and working with orphanages in the Dominican Republic, partnering with Agape North seemed like a no-brainer.  I loved their passion for serving others, especially children, and was excited about the opportunity to get involved.  We began to use Agape North as our primary provider for our annual class t-shirts.  Each homeroom designs and wears the shirts for special events throughout the year, including spirit days and field day.  We love our shirts, but more importantly we love what they represent.

Two years ago, Agape North partnered us with Freedom Preparatory Academy in Southwest Memphis.  We had the opportunity to travel to their elementary school and hand deliver school pride t-shirts to each student.  We took a group of HMS students along with us so they could directly witness how their class t-shirts helped create t-shirts for the kids at Freedom Prep.  We were overcome by the welcome we received while we were there and amazed at the discipline and focus of their students.  The teachers and staff at Freedom Prep place a strong emphasis on instruction, student achievement, and college preparedness.  This was evident in the celebration we witnessed where students were called to the center of a circle (created by students and staff) and recognized for their successes.  College memorabilia lined the walls and each teacher provided a personal touch by hanging a flag of the college they graduated from outside their door.  It was truly an inspiring sight to witness.  We knew there was something special about this school, and we asked Jason Baker from Agape North if we could partner with this school in years to come.

Houston Middle visits Freedom Prep to deliver school pride t-shirts and learn about the important work of Freedom Prep Academy.

Houston Middle visits Freedom Prep to deliver school pride t-shirts and learn about the important work of Freedom Prep Academy.

It wasn't until our second year of visiting Freedom Prep that I met Courtney McNeal, a community outreach specialist for the school.  She gave us a tour of their school and also set up some time for our students to interact together.  The students formed mixed groups of HMS students and Freedom Prep students and were given a series of questions to help them become acquainted with each other.  This was such a valuable opportunity for our students to find things in common with students across Memphis who they might not have the chance to meet if it were not for this experience.  They shared laughter and made friendships.  It was an experience that our students continued to talk about even after we left.  Freedom Prep has made an impression on all of us.  Courtney McNeal and I began sharing stories and contact information.  We made a commitment to look for more opportunities to partner our two schools together in the spirit of unity and community.

Houston Middle and Freedom Prep students engage in small group discussion.

Houston Middle and Freedom Prep students engage in small group discussion.

About a month later I received an email from Ms. McNeal expressing an interest in having each of our schools host each other in a friendly basketball game.  I thought this was a great idea, and we quickly set dates that would work for both our basketball teams and cheer squads to be a part of two nights.  On February 16, we hosted Freedom Prep at Houston Middle.  It was important for us to make them feel like they were a part of our family.  After all, we had been to their school twice, but had not yet had the opportunity to host them.  We had a lot of fun having our two basketball teams compete, but what our students enjoyed most was the time following the game where we engaged in a Snapchat challenge.  Our cheer and basketball teams were able to work together to come up with a quick Snapchat video that ranged from hilarious dance moves, impressive flips, and of course - the mannequin challenge.  We also called our friends at Agape North and they provided a shirt for all the students on the teams as well as the staff who helped coordinate the event.  It was truly a night of fun, fellowship, and community with our friends from across Memphis.

A week later we traveled to Freedom Prep where they hosted us in a community basketball game.  They made us feel at home and were so hospitable.  They provided us with a meal, gave each of us a Freedom Prep beach ball (how awesome is that!) and engaged our students in a dance off challenge!  I'm pretty sure Freedom Prep has us beat when it comes to dance skills!  But we all had a great time and enjoyed reconnecting with our new friends.  We cannot wait for the next time our two schools are able to unite for the greater good.  I am grateful for companies like Agape North who truly bring our Memphis community together.  Truly, together we are better.

Michael Ruiz / Assistant Principal, Houston Middle School

High Expectations, High Support

A recent New York Times article, Schools That Work, highlighted two characteristics of schools who repeatedly achieve results they are aiming for: high expectations and high support. Agape North exists to help people thrive through giving, ultimately to provide schools with high support in order to help them achieve. We continue to be excited about the partnership that has developed between Regency Homebuilders and Cornerstone Preparatory Elementary School in Binghampton in Memphis. 

Blair Perry, Director of Campus Operations at Cornerstone Prep, has provided some reflections on their partnership with Regency:

Capstone Education Group operates two schools and educates over 750 students at our Lester Campus: Cornerstone Prep (Pre-K - 5) and Lester Prep (6-8). We consider ourselves fortunate for the opportunity we’ve been given to serve the students and families of Binghampton. Unfortunately, like most schools, we’ve been given an enormous task and limited resources with which to accomplish it. As a result, we rely heavily upon the help of volunteers who enable us to use more of our resources on direct supports to students in the desks. Simply said, we need great partners in order to be most successful in our work.

Admittedly, my first contact with Regency Homebuilders and Agape North came with a great deal of hesitation and reservation. I’d experienced “help” before from “partners” that proved to be more trouble than they were worth. I knew that the uniform donation would be great, but I expected their investment would stop shortly thereafter. Yet, Regency Homebuilders and Agape North have proved to be tremendous partners, time and time again. Before we even handed out any uniforms, the Regency staff plugged-in by sponsoring classrooms and providing a much-appreciated staff lunch. But the biggest help came when they brought their full staff on campus for a day of service.

Regency Homebuilders visits Cornerstone Prep for their first ever school uniform Giving Day. They were able to give back school shirts because they purchased company apparel through Agape North.

Regency Homebuilders visits Cornerstone Prep for their first ever school uniform Giving Day. They were able to give back school shirts because they purchased company apparel through Agape North.

For several hours on a Friday morning, the staff of Regency Homebuilders painted columns, swept out boiler rooms, planted flowers, installed door sweeps -- the list was enormous. Work that would’ve taken significant amounts of time, energy, effort, and (quite frankly) money were knocked out in just a few hours. Further, at the end of the day, they walked around campus with me asking for a wishlist of projects they could partner with us on accomplishing for years to come. We immediately began planning for another blitz this spring. What started as a simple uniform donation has become a beautiful partnership. Check out a short highlight video from the Regency Day of Service below!

This uniform donation served simply as a point of connection for a much greater and significant partnership. Regency Homebuilders and Agape North came to us, asked us what we needed, and partnered with us in filling the needs they were able to meet. Without a single doubt in my mind, because of the support provided by this partnership, Cornerstone and Lester Preps are better able to accomplish our mission of equipping students with the knowledge and wisdom needed to succeed in college and to become leaders in their community.

Blair Perry / Cornerstone Preparatory Elementary, Lester Campus

The Extra Mile

The partnership between Grace Evangelical Church and Agape North initially began through the Grace Evan youth group using the Agape North t-shirt design and creation expertise and services. During a Grace Evan staff meeting the youth group leadership shared the Agape North community give-back concept in which a percentage of purchased shirts lead to the creation of separate shirts to be donated to a community partner school. Grace Evan was partnered with the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) school, specifically KIPP Memphis Preparatory Elementary (KMPE).

Immediately after the staff meeting the Grace Athletics team met with our youth program leadership to learn more. Within weeks Grace Athletics met with KIPP KMPE to learn how we could offer our services – reaching an unchurched world through maturing believers through athletics and sharing of the Gospel. The KIPP KMPE and Grace Athletics relationship was born. Principal Sarah Jensen, an enthusiastic and visionary leader, saw the potential to offer to her 1stand 2nd graders. Similar to Agape North, Grace Athletics provides scholarship give-back opportunities to serve our greater community. A KIPP flag team was formed and joined the Crosscheck football league. Furthermore, a 1st and 2ndgrade set of teams were formed and joined our Crosscheck basketball league. Additionally, through our initial KMPE contacts Grace Athletics has branched out to a second KIPP school, Memphis Academy Elementary, to form two 3rdgrade flag football teams and a 4th grade basketball team within our Crosscheck leagues.

Our goal is to continue our relationship with KIPP and follow their vision; each year the school adds another grade to their school we form teams in our leagues to maintain our relationship with the players and families – former and new.

Agape North has the right mind-set; to make a difference requires giving of self, and giving back. Grace Evan and Grace Athletics agree. Our relationships with schools such as KIPP provide opportunities to foster a cross-cultural, demographically mixed, and Christian environment to our youth.

Scott Elliott / Athletic Director, Grace Evangelical Church

Interview: Emily Cupples

We recently sat down with Emily Cupples of City Leadership/Teach 901 to talk Memphis, education, and of course, a little Memphis food. Agape North is grateful to partner with City Leadership on some of their apparel throughout the year to give back to various Memphis schools.

Enjoy Emily’s story below!

What is City Leadership and how does Teach 901 fit into the brand?

City Leadership is a non-profit consulting agency in Memphis, TN. John Carroll founded the organization in 2010 with the mission of maximizing non-profit leadership in the city of Memphis. Through City Leadership’s work, we found there were several nuances surrounding relocation to the city of Memphis and that was preventing highly specialized individuals and professionals from relocating back or to Memphis. In 2012, City Leadership rolled out Choose901 as a campaign to highlight the amazing and awesome pieces of Memphis, thus aiding in talent recruitment and leadership maximization. Teachers are the largest workforce in Memphis and the most sought after professionals in America. Having such a massive impact, teachers deserved their own campaign alongside Choose901 and so was born Teach901.

How did you decide to devote your life’s work to education equality/recruiting?

I was raised in a low income family and attended failing schools. Through factors outside of my control – race and demographics- I was allowed to attend a private school and receive a higher quality education for a time period. With high tuition rates, only people within a specific class and income bracket could attend, however, I was granted admission. I attended the school for all of my lower elementary and middle school years, building a strong foundation and an array of deductive reasoning skills. For high school and junior high school, I attended a failing school and the difference was insurmountable. The achievement gap was a wide canyon between my peers and myself, and this achievement gap has manifested into an opportunity gap, self perpetuating the cycle of poverty. I could not control that I was awarded a stronger/better education, and neither can our students today. Every student deserves to build a strong foundation and array of deductive reasoning skills regardless of race, demographic, or income class. Education brought me out of poverty, and I owe it to education and its students to ensure any that want it have the same opportunity

How does City Leadership and Teach 901 define success?

Success looks different for everyone and every organization. There is the 30,000 feet up definition of success and the micro definition. One could say success is going through every possible action utilizing all resources available with no necessary defined end point. We use that definition is some cases and in other specific ways. A specific way could be to say we need X number of website visitors. Regardless if you tried all courses of actions and utilized all available resources, if you didn’t hit X number that’s not a success and vice versa.

Describe a recent Teach 901 success story.

Teach901 set out to recruit and connect 100 teacher hires with schools in Memphis for the 2016/17 school year. Prior to the first day of school, Teach901 had connected 181 hired teachers in Memphis charter schools and Shelby County Public Schools.

Why did City Leadership/Teach 901 decide to link up with Agape North?

Schooling is a difficult process for parents, students, administrators, teachers and the overall education community. From curriculum design, to homework assignments, bus routes, lunch plans, and school culture, I’m not sure how parents and teachers do it. With all the moving pieces that have to consistently fit together, it’s a miracle school begins and ends every day. Agape North is taking away one of those obstacles for parents and schools by alleviating the concern of uniforms and clothes. Teach901 recognizes the value and magnitude this can have for a child, and wanted to partner to extend Agape North’s impact.

What did you take away from the City Leadership/Agape North Giving Day at Memphis Delta Prep Elementary?

The City Leadership/Agape North Giving Day was extremely eye opening for me in a lot of ways. Whereas we adults get frazzled and stressed about the idea of schooling, students are genuinely excited about the process. Hundreds of students arrived at MDP with so much eagerness to learn and sharpen pencils, I bet you could bottle it up and sell it if possible. If we can match resources with students’ eagerness, I can’t imagine where schooling would go.

According to Emily Cupples, what’s the most underrated restaurant in Memphis?

My kitchen. HA kidding a little bit, but not really. I subscribe to a CSA from a local farm in Memphis, and combine those groceries with staples from any of Memphis’ several farmers’ markets and I get a product that is pretty hard to beat. If I were to pick a restaurant, I would have to pick Maciel’s in Downtown Memphis. It’s a local authentic taco shop.

Follow the work of City Leadership and Teach 901 – @choose901 and @teach901.

Advocating For Them

How many of you reading this post were first generation college students? Probably very few. How many of you applied to multiple colleges and universities? And how many college applications did you submit? Six? Eight? Ten or more?  Did you take the standardized college entrance exams multiple times, and in some cases even take prep-courses? Whether we can say “yes” to many of these questions for ourselves or have completed this process with our children, for most economically challenged families and their young high schoolers, they simply cannot. Unfortunately, they are not fully aware of the college application processes, therefore they are already a step behind. There are many colleges and universities eager to embrace an achieving minority student, but neither the colleges know who they are nor the students and their families experienced enough in the complexities of applying to college.

This is a key point in Malcom Gladwell’s important podcast series, “Revisionist History”. Malcolm’s series has had a profound impact on us at Agape North. We strongly encourage the family of businesses, faith-based organizations, and schools that purchase from us and the teachers and administrators that receive gifted school uniforms, to set aside the time and listen to Episode 4, “Carlos Can’t Remember”. www.revisionisthistory.com


What Agape North takes away from Malcom’s podcast, mainly supported by the research of Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery in “The Missing One-Offs”: The Hidden Supply of High Achieving, Low Income Students” (http://www.nber.org/papers/w18586 ) is that these hard working students from low-income families need a strong, knowledgeable, and determined voice. They need an advocate, someone to support them during the college application process, encourage them to reach for great colleges, and bring college admissions departments and resources to them.

Our greatest take away from this podcast, is that we must bring these students and the institutions of higher learning together. We all can quickly summarize that a college fair night makes sense. We know that colleges and universities would never invest limited resources to visit charter and public schools, in areas like South Memphis or North Nashville. At Agape North we can think of dozens of schools with thousands of students that the economic challenges of visiting colleges is too great. If the students cannot visit amazing colleges, and the colleges do not have the ability to visit them, we might as well admit defeat. This does not sit well with us at Agape North.

Agape North is going to raise its hand and state, “we are going to be an advocate for these students.” Working with many of you, our customers, we will be planning our first Agape North College Night – Memphis 2017! We are going to work with the schools in economically challenged areas around Memphis and invite a defined percentage of the students in those schools to meet a large number of admissions departments representing colleges and universities from around the country. We want these institutions of higher learning to know that Memphis is a city full of potential.

Details will be coming out soon about this exciting event. If you are one of our customers and want to be an advocate with us for our hard-working students, please reach out to us. If you are an administrator or teacher in a school outside of Memphis and would like to bring a group of your students to our event, please email Jason Baker, Director of School Relations, at jason.baker@agapenorth.com.

Michael Deutsch / Partner