Jaydis is a ‘powerful example’ of the transformative impact education choice can have on a student

ST. PETERSBURG – Jaydis Kincade sat at a picnic table in the shade next to the vegetable garden maintained by his classmates at Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg and set up a chess board.

Out came the rooks, the bishops, the knights. The pawns, the king, the queen.

He aligned them in their correct positions – Black on one side, White on the other – and began to play.

Jaydis vs Jaydis.

Jaydis won.

“Checkmate,” he said after a flurry of moves.

Jaydis, 12, is in the seventh grade at Academy Prep, a grades 5-8 private school located 10 minutes by foot from his St. Petersburg home. He attends the school on a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC), which is made possible by corporate donations to Step Up For Students.

This is his third year at Academy Prep, and like he does when playing against himself in chess, Jaydis is winning.

He receives high grades and has the respect of his peers, teachers, and school administration. He is the secretary of the Student Leadership Council. He recently learned to play chess, competing against an app on his iPhone at least five times a day. Often more.

“A lot more,” he said. “I’m getting good at it.”

After receiving the FTC scholarship, his mom, Latarriea Bradford, exercised her education choice rights and moved Jaydis from his assigned school to Academy Prep.

“I felt like this was an opportunity for Jaydis to push himself academically, to challenge himself,” she said.

Since enrolling, Academy Prep Assistant Head of School Brittany Dillard said Jaydis “represents a powerful example of the transformative impact that education, support, and personal determination can have on an individual’s life trajectory.”

“Jaydis gets it,” Latarriea said. “I really don’t have too much to worry about since he started school here. He is keeping a 3.0 grade point average and keeps focused on the right things.”

Jaydis said he loves to be challenged academically, otherwise school is “boring. It’s not fun.”

“I like the dopamine release when I get a question right on a test,” he said. “It makes me feel good about myself, and I can move on to the next challenge.”

Jaydis began reading at an early age. His mom credits that for his love of learning.

Part of the Academy Prep experience is the school’s mentorship program. That’s where Jaydis met Ebrahim Busheri, who works in the financial industry. The two have been meeting at least once a week since October. They sometimes meet on the weekend to visit an art gallery or try a new restaurant since Jaydis loves to try new foods.

“I’m trying to just be there for him and to encourage him,” Busheri said. “From my perspective, I think he’s an amazing kid. He’s incredibly smart and has an incredibly warm personality.

“It’s tough to, in my opinion, teach either of those things. It’s a gift that he has, so I’ve tried to encourage him and make him realize that without hard work, those things will not help. I want him to recognize that he’s got to work hard, and his grades have to be consistently good.”

Jaydis called Busheri “a great role model for me.”

Busheri entered his life at the right time. Jaydis has not had any contact with his father since he moved to New Mexico three years ago. This upsets Jaydis. It upsets his mom, too.

“The mentorship program is something that is beneficial to Jaydis,” Latarriea said.

Latarriea added that sometimes, kids have a hard time expressing themselves. Having someone like Busheri to provide another ear is a big help.

“It’s hard as a mother to try to really understand boys. They don’t listen like girls,” she said. “Their attention span is very short when it comes to that, so I have to make (my message) quick and to the point.”

Jaydis was recently honored at the Rising Stars Awards event, an annual event hosted by Step Up For Students. Dillard, who nominated Jaydis for the honor, described him as fearless, hopeful, and reflective.

“I’ve been in education a really long time, and Jaydis is one of those students who is a diamond in the rough,” Dillard said. “I want Jaydis to take those great gifts that he has and use them for the greater good and one day show other students who are in his shoes that life may not be easy. You will have challenges, but you endure, and you will reap that benefit and that reward of being successful.”

Jaydis has big plans for himself. He wants to attend Princeton University (“I want to be more diverse in my studies,” he said) and own a clothing business. His two favorite subjects – math and Spanish – play an early role toward his career goal. Math will help him on the business end, and the ability to converse in Spanish will help him increase his clientele.

Jaydis is thinking a few steps ahead, which is how you win at chess.

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BY Roger Mooney

Roger Mooney is the marketing communications manager for Step Up For Students. He joined the organization after a career as a sports and features writer for several Florida newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times.

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