More than a decade ago, in the early 1990s, a tenacious group of citizens banded together to push for a higher standard of public education. This group, with limited funding, pushed forward to open one of the first charter schools in the State of Texas with high expectations and International Baccalaureate aspirations. In April 1996, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) granted a charter to North Hills Preparatory in Irving, Texas. While the TEA granted North Hills a charter, they did not provide any funding or facilities to open the school. Fortunately, valued supporters donated the seed money necessary to open the doors in August 1997. This funding allowed Uplift Education to open its first high quality public charter school. Today North Hills Preparatory is Uplift Education’s longest operating school.
Uplift’s founding was due to the efforts of many individuals including:
- Corporate and community leaders who tirelessly researched best in class programs from across the country and the world.
- The mayor of Irving who was ahead of his time in recognizing the strong role city leadership can play in public education.
- An entrepreneurial toy manufacturer who provided a building he owned and allowed it to be converted into a school.
This story provides an important foundation for Uplift’s history. From this starting point, Uplift began building a model for education and actively enhancing it every year, continually seeking out new ideas and remaining open to new circumstances. An important part of this model is the focus on college acceptance and readiness and the evolution of Uplift’s dual board structure that ties its community to its nonprofit work. As the model and network of talented individuals has grown and evolved, this development paved the way for the expansion of Uplift in 2004 with Peak Preparatory, and in 2007 with Williams Preparatory, Hampton Preparatory and Summit International Preparatory in underserved communities in Dallas and Tarrant counties.
As it engaged in the challenging work of replicating its model and graduating 1,500 students by 2015, Uplift was supported by many local and national philanthropists—Communities Foundation of Texas, The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Harold Simmons Foundation and The Todd and Abby Williams Foundation—that shared its passion for improving public education and college readiness. These funders and thought leaders provided:
- Opportunities to share learnings with “best in class” peers across the country.
- Facilities and start-up funding that allowed Uplift to open its second school, Peak Preparatory, outside of downtown Dallas and begin the process of replicating the Uplift model.
- Funding to build an Uplift infrastructure that supports the ongoing growth and continual replication of Uplift’s schools, including two additional feeder schools to open in fall 2010—Laureate Preparatory and Heights Preparatory.