BMI: The Hidden Gem of Education

Friday, February 22, 2013 - 9:43am

02/22/13 -- Building on a solid foundation will ensure that the future of the structure will last for years to come. Children who have a strong educational foundation will also have bright futures. Since 1966, Beatrice Mayes Institute has given children more than just skills to broaden their horizon but a big dose of love, support, and a belief that "a child can go fourth" to do great things.

Beatrice Mayes always knew the importance of education. Before she had her boys, Christopher and Thomas "TC", with her late husband Thomas Mayes, Sr. Beatrice believe that in the power of education to take one far in life. Having the desire to become an entrepreneur and to educate children she, along with her husband, established Wonderland Private School in a small house with a licensed for 30 students. Beatrice was the teacher and the cook and Thomas was the administrator. That was then forty-six years later with a new name, new mission, and more students Wonderland is still in the business of educating children and is the oldest African American Charter School in Houston.

After Thomas surprised the love of his life by putting her name on the school building when the school expanded to a new location, students took notice. Student athletes had grown embarrassed by telling their opponents they attended Wonderland and began telling them they attended BMI and the name stuck. In the early 2000s during the charter movement, the school officially became the Beatrice Mayes Institute Charter School.

Keeping it in the family, the school is now operated by Thomas and Beatrice's sons. Christopher had the opportunity to chat with Style to tell why BMI is such a jewel to the community. In a nutshell Christopher said, "Its our history that makes us special." Referencing more than just the history of the school, but the history within the school. Employees at BMI have longevity. Some teacher and staff have been at BMI for 38 years. Many of the teachers are even alumni of the school. So they understand the personal care that comes with educating students. Teachers, parents, and students enter a relationship on which they build on for several years, where the child will be the ultimate beneficiary. "We want the students to behave like we expect them to do at school at home," said Christopher.

Having the mission of expanding minds, building charter and inspiring community action, BMI staff is giving students more than just book knowledge. Learning above their grade level, their minds are expanded because that is what is expected of them. Currently, BMI educates students ages 18months to eighth grade. When eighth graders leave the fold of BMI they have high school credits in Spanish, algebra and computer education. They also have read 75% of books read on the high school level such as The Scarlet Letter, The Bridge of St. Luis Rey, The Pearl and Moby Dick. Eighth graders are not the only ones on an excelled reading track. All students know the importance of reading. This is even stressed over the summer when students have a so-called break from school. During the summer months, students are expected to continue the learning process. Each one is given a reading list as well as math homework and must write two essays. When school starts the following year they are tested over their summer material. "We focus on mastering skills throughout the entire year," said Christopher.

The character building of students is an ongoing learning process through the repetition of what is right behavior. Consistency is the best teacher and that's why whoever teaches a child in first grade will also teach them in second and third grade before they get a new teacher who will then teach them for three years.

BMI students inspire action with their own actions. Community activities like Tour da Hood, where students mount bikes and bike from the school located on Calhoun Street to Minute Maid Park. "Its great for the community to see," said Christopher. It is also healthy for kids to do when many kids spend most of their time looking at a screen than experiencing the fresh air of outside.

The SACS accredited school that ranks among the top 1% of schools in Texas now wants to expand again. It was always the vision of Thomas and Beatrice for the school to expand to the high school level. Their sons have taken on that challenge to see a dream fulfilled. Trying to acquire 6.3 acres of land that is adjacent to their current property, Christopher and TC want to add 24 new classrooms, an auditorium, industrial size kitchen and gymnasium. Four million dollars is needed to accomplish this dream. Tapping the Wonderland, Inc. Advisory Board as well as parents, alumni, and supporters they hope to reach their goal. If you believe in the power of education and that a child can truly go fourth with a proper foundation invest in BMI. Find out ways to do this by logging on to www.wonderlandinc.org or www.bmicharter.org or contacting the school directly at (713) 747-5629.

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