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Multi-Campus Model Prepares Students for a Multi-Cultural World

One boy wore a dark green top and light-colored shorts. The other wore a red shirt and black shorts. With hands in their pockets, the pair stood side-by-side and peered up into the camera with identical innocent eyes.

On the outside, the boys were different. Not just their clothes. Their skin tones. But on the inside, they were the same. Little innocent boys at a school outing - the hopes of one school’s leadership, who wanted to unite minority inner-city Memphis students with white Germantown students to prepare them all for a multi-cultural world.

The two boys in the photograph became friends. One moved in with the other’s family for two years when his mother moved away for a better job. He didn’t want his education to be disrupted - and probably not his social life, either.

Donovan Borum recently graduated with his friend Carter Burgess and 106 other classmates, four of whom started at the Memphis campus like Donovan and are all college bound. Their class was the first to experience the three-campus model at the private, college preparatory St. George’s Independent School. While the first batch of students to go all the way from preschool to graduation under the model was small, officials say future minority participation will be greater.

Only 1 percent of students at St. George’s were minorities when the model was implemented 15 years ago. Now 29.5 percent of the 1,150 students across all campuses are students of color.

While elementary students attend classes at an inner-city Memphis campus and at the predominately-white Germantown campus, they come together at regular intervals by the blending of curriculum, programs and field trips during these early years. Later, the two campuses feed into a second, collective middle/upper school campus in Collierville. Officials hope after college, students of all races will bring their talents back to Memphis.

The creation of the multi-campus model is fueled by a philosophy to provide opportunities across racial and economic boundaries because “every child is a child of God,” said Sarah Cowan, director of communications at St. George’s. “Learning from people different from you, we believe, prepares students for jobs. If you’re entering a global workforce, being prepared to work with people different than you is critical.”

St. George’s started in 1959 for ages preschool to sixth grade. While leadership wanted a more diverse pool of students, it wasn’t easy in predominately white Germantown, Cowan said. While fundraising to build the Collierville campus, school officials discovered a donor group who wanted to put its money into the core of Memphis. Those anonymous donors put millions into the program and continue to provide the financial support for the multi-campus model.

The Memphis campus opened in 2001 at 3749 Kimball with a class of 19 pre-kindergarten students. A class was added each year. The school will be at capacity this fall with 150 students and has been since 2008. Most of them qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Students at the Memphis campus don’t receive their tuition for free. Each family pays something, based on its ability, or at least $500 a year. “We want them to be invested,” said Andrea Ballard, director of the Memphis campus.

The cost to educate a child who started 15 years ago at St. George’s and finished this spring is about $195,000. Tuition for a high schooler is now at $19,500 a year, more than the annual salary of some families.

At one of the cross-campus events, Donovan met Carter, a taller boy the same age. They ate pizza together. Two years before graduation, Donovan’s mother, who had gone back to school herself, got a better job. Donovan didn’t want to leave but he had nowhere to live until Stewart Burgess, Carter’s father and St. George’s early childhood director, volunteered the family home.

Donovan described the first month as “weird” because while he was used to going to school with other races, he wasn’t accustomed to living with a different race. He soon relaxed. He went everywhere the Burgess boys did, even on vacation. “They treated me like one of their own kids,” Donovan said. “They didn’t treat me differently.”

Donovan got a full scholarship to Wake Forest University in North Carolina and will study computer science and engineering. “I want to be the next Steve Jobs with Bill Gates’ money,” he said.

While Donovan moved to Georgia to be with his mother for the summer – a fact that was “kind of upsetting,” Carter said – the young men plan to keep in touch. Carter, who will be on a pre-med track at Emory University in Atlanta, thinks the three-campus model’s impact reveals itself in what Donovan’s move-in was not.

“I personally never had an earth-shattering epiphany,” Carter said. “We’re just friends. He’s Donovan, and I’ve known him a pretty long time.”

Story by: Toni Lepeska
Photo by: Troy Glasgow
Posted: 9/13/2016 9:54:56 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Community, Education, George, Independent, Member, Model, Multi-Campus, Schools, Spotlight, St.

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The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 ( or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (