MISHAWAKA — Leaders of the International Soccer Academy of America — a small private, athletics-focused high school on Edison Road — are celebrating this week after receiving accreditation from the Indiana State Board of Education.
The school, which has just completed its first year, was initially denied accreditation last July after state board members said the academy failed to provide detailed records of its expected budget, its teaching methods and its ability to support virtual education.
Accreditation: Football academy plans to open despite rejected application
State board staff came back with a positive recommendation this month, saying the school’s latest application for accreditation corrected the shortcomings found in the academy’s first attempt.
The state board approved the school’s latest application Wednesday morning with little discussion under its 11-point consent program.
“Last year was tough,” said school founder Ethan Hunt. “It was nice to come in this year and hear that you did a good job. It reassures you.”
Gaining accreditation means the school can now graduate students with Indiana’s CORE 40 college credentials and participate in the state’s scholarship program of choice, which could be a sign of welcome to families considering the academy’s $25,000 per year tuition.
Tuition fees cover student academic needs, use of facilities, travel to competitions, and college visits. However, that $25,000 price rarely matches what students pay.
Through corporate sponsorships and scholarships, the school was able to offset tuition at an average cost of $5,000, Hunt said. Families never pay more than 10% of their family’s annual household income.
The academy is located on Edison Road, in the former YMCA of Edison Lakes, between Grape Road and Main Street. Lippert, one of the school’s major sponsors, helped furnish the renovations and paid for school supplies for the students, Hunt said.
The school’s mission is to unite academics and athletics in one school with an emphasis on college readiness and collegiate competition.
The academy is not a member of the Indiana High School Athletic Association and instead competes against teams such as Grace College, Bethel University and Huntington University, as well as other schools in the Midwest – a prospect that has helped the school to recruit future students.
“Here you can tell people want to play to get better,” said Jordan Lopez, who went for a shade day and will join the school this fall. “I really liked it. I’m a really competitive person.”
The academy, through sponsorship with Spanish football club Villarreal, can send up to two all-expenses-paid students to Spain for a week of training with the professional team. With scholarships and family support, more students may be able to join the trip.
The academy, in its first year, had 32 students and is looking to increase that number to around 60 by the next school year. Hunt says he works mostly to recruit female athletes.
Currently, approximately 20% of students are women and 92% are Hispanic. Hunt says he would like to achieve a 50-50 ratio of male and female student-athletes. As a private school, many of the academy’s students come from northern Indiana.
The school employs four teachers and is looking to hire an additional English teacher by next year. All but one are fired, Hunt said, and the school is working to maintain a low student-teacher ratio of 8 to 1.
Classes on offer include core subjects such as math and language arts, as well as others including Spanish, business and mindfulness – a class that students say transferred to their on-the-job skills .
“It mentally prepared us a lot better for the game,” said Bryan Medina, who will be in his second year this fall. “We had to learn to breathe.”
Hunt says the school raised about $110,000 this year through student tuition and about $150,000 through sponsorships large and small with local businesses and families.
Accreditation means the academy can now further supplement tuition through the Indiana School Choice Scholarship Program, which pays private schools the equivalent public funding that a public school would receive for a student based on the district. school in which he lives.
For most International Soccer Academy of America students, this equates to approximately $6,000 per student in dollars that the school can use to offset tuition. Hunt estimates the program of choice will net the academy a total of $240,000 next year. The school will also be eligible to receive funding for its special education students, including four who are currently enrolled in the school.
Accreditation also plays a role in public perception, Hunt said. In the past year, the young school has not spent a large amount of money on marketing in favor of investing in the educational needs of students. Hunt said he instead focused his recruiting efforts on Instagram and word-of-mouth.
Laying the groundwork for a new school without accreditation, however, came with its challenges. Hunt says he’s heard from expectant parents and sponsors that they would feel more comfortable investing in a school that has received state approval.
He said the school was able to better frame its application for accreditation this year after having data and sponsorship dollars under its belt after opening this school year. For example, Hunt said, he was able to share with state officials signs of academic progress among the schools’ first grades, including an increase in students’ grade point average from 1.8 to 3.1 in the course of the school year.
“I believe athletics is a way to get students where they want to be in their professional lives,” Hunt said. “Maybe some of these kids need football right now and that keeps them in school and then they get a degree in whatever they want to do. … If they get a football scholarship, it’s That’s the icing on the cake. But it’s not. It has to be just that.”
The school now, with accreditation under its belt, is focused on expanding its reach. The academy currently hosts three students, including one from Mexico and two from Michigan, who are staying with host families – typically, the parents of other academy students who agree independently of the school to house fellow students. class.
Opening soon: Mishawaka native bets big on private football-only high school
Hunt can anticipate that this program will expand in the future with greater international reach. He also has his vision on a longer term goal of exploring college teaching.
Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood, who visited the school for its accreditation announcement on Wednesday, said he was in discussions with the academy about using the parks department’s athletic fields. the city. He said he sees the school as a suitable partner as the city works to build its own regional sports complex.
“In this case, you bring students from all over to experience Mishawaka,” Wood said of the school. “This is our opportunity to show our best footing and show off this wonderful community.”