Four years after it purchased the former Lemington Elementary School, Destiny International Ministries is preparing to open a Christian all-boys school next fall.
"When you read the statistics and see the disparity of education among African-American males, it's just glaring," said the Rev. Michael Smith, senior pastor of Destiny.
He believes an all-male environment coupled with a Christian atmosphere and a classical education will lead to student success at the new Destiny Leadership Academy.
"I truly believe this: Give any boy a great education and a firm foundation in Christ and that boy will grow up to become a caring, intelligent, successful man," he said.
The school will be open to all races, but, given its location in a high-crime minority neighborhood, Rev. Smith thinks the most likely students will be black.
Applications will be accepted beginning Monday.
Students and parents will be interviewed after applying, and parents will be required to sign a pledge to participate.
Tuition will be $4,000 a year, but some scholarships will be available.
The church is hosting its first annual school fundraiser Saturday, with various performers and guests, including Curtis Martin, National Football League Hall of Fame running back.
Rev. Smith said the school already has raised the more than the $250,000 needed to open next fall.
He said the school is being modeled after Marva Collins, a Chicago public schools teacher who gained fame when she founded the Westside Preparatory School in 1975.
The school will offer a classical education, including Latin and philosophy.
Destiny Leadership Academy plans to begin with 15 kindergarten students and add a grade per year through sixth grade. The building has 25 classrooms, so there is potential to add additional sections at each grade level.
Rev. Smith said the school will begin with a staff consisting of himself, who will be dean of students and teach philosophy, Latin and leadership; his wife, Donna, who now teaches at Pittsburgh King PreK-8 and is assistant pastor at the church; and an assistant teacher.
Students will attend school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week plus twice a month on Saturdays. In addition, students will be expected to attend a three-day-a-week summer program.
Destiny purchased the school building from Pittsburgh Public Schools for $125,000 in 2008.
Rev. Smith said the Destiny church began with nine members in 2001 and met in various rental spaces until it acquired the school building. He said it now has about 100 members.
Education writer Eleanor Chute: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1955.