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Ivy Preparatory marks first year

NORCROSS - Ivy Preparatory Academy's first year wasn't without its challenges, but the growth in the students has been phenomenal, the head of the all-girls charter school said.

"It's so worth it to sacrifice for a little while to see the growth in students and how they've matured," Head of School Nina Gilbert said.

The girls and their families ended their sixth-grade year with an awards ceremony at the Norcross school. Teachers handed out certificates to the highest achieving students and the girls who most embodied the school's values. Each scholar also received an award for being a part of the inaugural class.

"I think it was a great experience to be in the first class," student Amber Usher said. "I'm happy with how we've progressed over time."

Since enrolling at Ivy Prep, Amber said her grades have improved. She's now making A's and B's.

"I like that it's an all-girls school," the Stone Mountain resident said. "It keeps me focused."

Her mother, Rose McDuffie-Usher, said she knew there would be kinks during the school's first year, but she's happy with the progress Ivy Prep has made. Classes were held at Christ the King Lutheran Church before the campus at 3705 Engineering Drive was ready for students. Because the privately run public school receives no local tax dollars, Ivy Prep has also struggled financially.

The first year also had some high points, such as the school trip to Washington, D.C., to see President Barack Obama's inauguration, McDuffie-Usher said.

Tab Brown said his family had to wake up at 5:30 a.m. so his daughter, Marybeth, could make it to school from their Stone Mountain home.

"But it's worth it," he said. "The teachers obviously really care about the students. The curriculum is strong. ... It's a very diverse school. It's a microcosm of the world.

"We'll be here as long as the school is here," he added. "Hopefully, we'll graduate from here."

During the ceremony, student Jada Brown encouraged her peers to believe they could do great things in life as they move forward into the future.

"'Believe, achieve, succeed' should no longer be a slogan to us, but a way of life," she said. "This is the Ivy way."