Friday, March 24, 2023

This Tulsa School Is a Game Changer for Building a Pipeline of Leaders Who Invest in Community

Crossover Preparatory Academy was born out of founder Phillip Abode’s experience while studying at the University of Tulsa on a full ride football scholarship. A lot of his teammates had received the same scholarship but were not fully prepared for college and ended up declaring early for the NFL draft. And it wasn’t because they were that good on the field, but because they ran out of academic eligibility to keep attending school. 

Crossover’s mission is to restore the community of North Tulsa by cultivating young men and creating a pipeline of leaders who invest back in the community. 

Why did you decide to found a school?

I grew up in a place called Stillwater, Oklahoma and  was blessed with enough God given ability and a great public school system, to get a full ride scholarship to play football at The University of Tulsa. 

We started our school as an all-boys school because we realized that is where the greatest need is. At that time African American males had the lowest college graduation rate—only 16% of those who started college actually finished.

So, when you look at under-resourced communities like ours, when you live in them, you begin to notice that there is a significant leadership vacuum. Unfortunately, a lot of the folks who could better the community normally leave when they have a chance. 

We see the school as a game changer that could create a pipeline of leaders for our community.

So, we wanted to create a school that gave us the opportunity to partner with young men to help them become college or career ready. We really want to instill a love for the community in our young men, so that once they are done with college or tech school, they want to come back to North Tulsa. We see the school as a game changer that could create a pipeline of leaders for our community.

Additionally, we wanted to utilize the fact that our school is private. It was our desire to bring the Christian faith into our school environment. We do not require any student to be a Christian to come to Crossover, but we do want them to know what it looks like to trust and follow Jesus.

Your school has five traits that define a crossover man. What are they and how did you come up with them?

The five traits are as follows:

1. A Crossover man rejects passivity.

2. A Crossover man accepts responsibility.

3. A Crossover man loves sacrificially.

4. A Crossover man leads courageously.

5. A Crossover man glorifies God.

These traits were inspired by the men’s fraternity material that was given by the Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock. From there we kind of put our own spin on it, with a focus on ensuring our young men know what kind of men God created them to be. It’s funny, we actually started with 11 traits that we condensed down to five. We make sure to not just use these traits as a school motto. We consistently incorporate each individual trait into our curriculum.

When you founded Crossover Prep did you do it with the intent of it being a Black founded school?

No, I mean I can’t help but know that I am a Black man. But my intent in starting the school was not because being a Black founder would be significant, it was because we have a problem in our community. Our school district is doing the best it can, and we do not want to throw any shade at it. However, we realized that a lot of our kids were not being prepared for the next step. At the end of the day, we just wanted to be a part of the solution.

It has been great to see so many young men that might have struggled at their previous schools, now getting the support they needed. Our goal at the end of the day is to bring the advantages of a private school education to our community that is not dependent on a parent’s ability to afford it.

So, we try to really make our school one that works for the kids. We have small classroom sizes so we can devote more time to each student and an academic coach that focuses on their roster of students. This way, even if the child feels like nobody cares they know they have an academic coach who does. In order to make our school thrive we have to create a culture that students want and need. If the older students like what we create they will pass it on to younger students. Hopefully, at the end of the day Crossover Prep will become an even greater school for our community.

What do you love the most about your school?

Getting to see our students grow before our eyes. I have students that came in when they were in seventh-grade and now they’re so tall some of them almost see eye to eye with me. The best part about being there for that growth is when you see the lights start to come on. Over time, the boys begin to take life seriously, they begin to start figuring out their path in life, and the values they will embrace along the way. To be a part of that process is what I truly love about our school.

Denisha Merriweather
Denisha Merriweather was a tax credit scholarship recipient in Florida, the Founder of Black Minds Matter and is the Director of Family Engagement at the American Federation for Children.


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