Eight other outstanding educators received $500,000 each to transform education for thousands of additional students
The most innovative and impactful education providers in America were honored tonight at the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan. Arizona Autism Charter Schools, the only public school for students with autism in Arizona and the first in the west dedicated to serving neuro-divergent learners, won the $1 million Yass Prize, education’s largest and most prestigious award.
The prize recognizes Arizona Autism’s efforts to expand its unique individualized learning programs, which are rated exemplary by Arizona, and supports the creation of a national accelerator for Autism-focused charter schools, which will enable similar schools to be established in every state.
Diana Diaz-Harrison explained why she founded the schools during the rigorous Yass Prize competition. “As an Autism Mom, I don’t want my kid to be seen as disabled. I want him to be seen as a doer, intelligent, productive and these charter schools that we are starting across America will help our children be neurodiverse, be who they are and be fulfilling, productive citizens.”
The eight other finalists for the Prize also were motivated by personal situations or the lack of education opportunities that exist for underserved students.
“We were thrilled to find these education changemakers and are grateful to be able to reward their extraordinary creativity, tenacity and achievements, and to help them build for the future. We should be giving every educator in the nation the freedom the Yass Prize winners have to tailor education to the needs of children, and give every parent the opportunity to choose specialized learning environments like these,” said Janine Yass, Founder with her husband Jeff, of the Yass Prize.
“After 25 years and countless dollars in charitable giving, this is by far the most impactful thing we have ever done with our resources,” added Mrs. Yass.
The additional prize winners, each of which will receive a $500,000 prize, include:
Capital Prep Schools, college preparatory charter schools serving students in some of the most dangerous communities in the country – the Bronx, Harlem and Bridgeport, CT – for its efforts to expand its capacity to provide historically disadvantaged students the skills they need to become responsible and engaged citizens for social change.
Northern Cass School District, an innovative public school district in North Dakota, for reimagining rural education and seeking to serve as a model for other districts seeking to implement a transformational, personalized, community-wide education model where other options for students are not available.
Oakmont Education, based in Akron, Ohio and with schools in nine other Ohio cities, for its ability to deliver personalized education and support career advancement for more than 3,000 students who struggle to navigate life with barriers such as poverty, addiction, homelessness, food insecurity, court involvement, mental health issues or raising children of their own.
Rapunzl, a national edtech company based in Chicago, for giving disadvantaged students an innovative and engaging way to learn about personal finance and investing, as well as for providing investment competitions where students compete for scholarships and cash prizes.
SailFuture Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida, whose founder himself was incarcerated as a student, is a tuition-free private entrepreneurship high school. They are recognized for leveraging project-based learning and paid apprenticeships to prepare students in foster care for successful careers by focusing on the maritime business in addition to culinary and construction experiences.
Soar Academy in Evans, Georgia, a non-traditional Micro-school for students with ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism, Auditory Processing Disorder and students facing remediation due to academic gaps, for guiding underserved students toward success with a one-on-one project-based learning environment both in-person and online.
unCommon Construction in New Orleans, Louisiana, with expansion into Minneapolis and other cities, for its unprecedented apprenticeship program that offers disadvantaged high-school students earn-while-you-learn opportunities for academic credit and scholarships for trade certifications, all of which are funded by revenue from selling houses participating students build.
Urban Preparatory Academy, in Wichita, the only African American private school in Kansas, for providing every student with an individual learning plan to get them reading on grade level and beyond. Infused with a focus on character and community engagement, the school’s efforts translate into a 100% acceptance rate into private high schools.
Formally called the Yass Prize for Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless Education, the annual prize exists to recognize and reward outstanding education providers and to amplify their work through financial support, collaboration, coaching, encouragement and an extensive mentorship network.
The Center for Education Reform (CER), Washington, DC, administers the prize and houses the Yass Foundation for Education.
Jeanne Allen, director of the Yass Foundation and founder and CEO of CER, said the awards program is helping to build a “critical mass of innovation and success” beyond the confines of America’s troubled public-school systems and capturing the attention and interest of thousands of educators and parents who want to be freed from bureaucracy to serve students in unique and innovative ways.
“Through Janine and Jeff’s extraordinary generosity, we can not only reward the best-in-class providers who deliver outstanding education when it is most needed, but provide a benchmark for all to emulate,” said Allen. “We are proud to celebrate the type of innovative work that will chart the future for sustainable and transformational opportunities for students—in permissionless settings.”