The Agape North team has recently experienced many positive changes, and one of the most exciting ones has been relocating our office to the corner of Tillman and Broad in the Binghampton neighborhood. We are proud to be a member of such a historical and prominent component of revitalization in our city. In hopes to learn more about this area and the initiatives taking place, we asked Angie Cramer, a partner and Director of Schools for Capstone Education Group, to provide us with some firsthand insight on the community and its development.

What initially drew you to the Binghampton area?

I knew about the great initiatives happening in the neighborhood, through work that Christ Church, SOS, BDC, the Carpenter Art Garden, and others were doing.  I learned about Cornerstone Prep - Lester (CPL) and how the work they were doing there was making a big difference in the academic lives of children and about how their mission was also to grow students in wisdom (not just knowledge). That really spoke to my heart for growing the whole child - teaching them character traits that would help them in school but also in life, and I wanted to be a part of that work!

It’s clear that you are passionate about this community – can you highlight a specific experience or aspect of Binghampton as a whole that fuels this fire?

A real gem in our community is the work that the Carpenter Art Garden. Our students pour out of our building at 3:30pm every day and go directly to the “purple house” for after school snacks and programs like painting, sewing, drumming, gardening, bike riding, and dozens of other programs!  They stay connected to school leaders at CPL and Lester Prep (LP) and partner with the schools to help them gain access to tutoring needs for kids and guest artists who work with our art teachers on special projects with kids at school. 

Have you seen a change in the way the community views education during your tenure?

Families in our community love the Lester schools!  Many families have connections to the school that go back generations, which create a pride in them and their children.  The community values the hard-working teachers and staff and see that the longer hours, focus on reading and foundational math skills, and student goal-setting have been instrumental in the amazing growth their children have made.  Everyone is proud of the awards the schools have earned for student growth and achievement in the seven years since CPL and LP opened. They believe that great things are happening for their kids and the Binghampton community because kids are growing in “wisdom and knowledge”.  

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How would you describe the culture of Cornerstone Prep? What community facets were considered in developing this culture?

The culture of Cornerstone Prep and Lester Prep (both schools on this Lester Campus) is one where we believe that all kids can learn and become leaders in their community.  We encourage students to work hard and be resilient even when school work and social interactions are challenging. We teach them character traits and core values like being prepared, respectful, engaged, responsible, purposeful, showing integrity, fortitude, self-control, and optimism through weekly lessons, in community meetings, and in every day interactions and conversations.  We see students accept these challenges and rise to meet the high expectations for their character and their academics which leads to amazing growth!

Are there any specific goals that your staff and students are currently pursuing?

One of the big goals we have is to help students dream big about their futures and gain exposure to opportunities that can be theirs beyond high school.  We do this by frequently bringing in guest speakers to share about their careers and by taking students on college visits locally, within TN, and out of state.

What changes or developments within the community have been or promise to be particularly consequential to Cornerstone Prep?

Current plans to redevelop abandoned apartment complexes, will greatly impact the neighborhood and attendance at our schools. We are excited to hear how the Binghampton Development Corporation (BDC) is working with the state on some of those plans now.  

How can community partners or individuals be a part of Cornerstone’s goals to grow in “wisdom and knowledge”?

For the college visits we take our 7th and 8th graders on, we do have to charge small fees to cover hotel and bus transportation.  This $20-$50 fee can be an obstacle for some students. If anyone would like to donate to our college tour fund, they could sponsor one 7th grader’s trip for $20 and one 8th grader’s trip for $50.  Additionally, if anyone would like to come speak to students about their career or college experiences, we would love to add you to our guest speaker list! To learn more about either of these opportunities they can email me at acramer@cornerstoneprepmemphis.org