A Collier County-based nonprofit provider of early childhood education and a charter school operator, RCMA, has made it to the semi-final round of a national competition with a $1 million prize.
Immokalee-based RCMA is one of 32 semifinalists in the 2022 competition for the $1 million Yass Prize for Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless Education (STOP).The announcement was made Oct. 13 at Forbes on Fifth in New York City, where Steve Forbes welcomed the quarterfinalists and RCMA Director of Charter Schools Juana Brown was in the audience, according to a statement.
As a semifinalist, RCMA, which stands for Redlands Christian Migrant Association, has already earned a $200,000 donation and is participating in an accelerator program to engage with experts, investors and mentors. RCMA will be part of an in-person accelerator program and pitch competition to be held in Miami Nov. 28 through Dec. 1, the release adds. Six finalists earning $250,000 each and one $1 million grand prize winner will be announced Dec. 14.
Funds from the Yass Prize will help RCMA with charter school expansion expenses, officials say. RCMA had $80.5 million in revenue in its most recent fiscal year, according to public tax filings.
“It is important for us to provide a continuum of education with our dual language, bicultural curriculum from our child development centers through our charter schools,” said RCMA Executive Director Isabel Garcia. “For more than 57 years, we have served the migrant farm worker and immigrant communities of Florida. We understand their specific family needs that go beyond education into health and social services that provide a strong foundation for children being prepared to learn, grow and follow their dreams.”
RCMA, according to its website, was founded in 1965 “by people concerned about children spending all day in South Florida’s vegetable fields with their migrant-working parents.” Today RCMA annually serves 5,500 children and their families in 21 primarily rural Florida counties through 65 child development centers and two K-8 charter schools. RCMA operates Immokalee Community Academy and Wimauma Community Academy, both K-8 schools rated “B” by the Florida Department of Education, the release states. RCMA plans to open Mulberry Community Academy for the 2023-2024 school year and then add another charter school in Immokalee followed by one in Homestead.
Janine and Jeff Yass are the visionaries behind the initiative initially created to find and advance the work of education providers that continued to serve children despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic. The effort is powered by the Center for Education Reform (CER) in Washington, D.C., with Forbes as a media partner.