Top Prep School in Brevard: Florida Prep Academy Sets New Era of World Class Learning
By Space Coast Daily // May 11, 2016
FLORIDA AIR ACADEMY NOW FLORIDA PREP
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – When the Class of 2015 received their diplomas earlier this year from Florida Air Academy, graduation was even more bittersweet, because like the graduating students, the school was entering a new chapter in its life.
On June 1 of this year, Florida Air Academy became Florida Preparatory Academy, or Florida Prep, a name that better defines the school and its purpose.
“Our mission is to prepare kids to be successful when they get to college, to be well prepared for future success, growth and leadership,” said President James Dwight.
“Our students get admitted into the best universities in the country. Our focus is the future.”
Although the school’s graduates have enjoyed 100 percent admission to colleges and universities since 1978, the Academy’s original name no longer reflected its true personality.
“The problem with the name was that more often than not, people thought it was a flight school instead of a college prep school,” said Dwight.
“Others thought it was a military school.”
Beyond the school’s rebranding, 2015 offers another milestone for Dwight, who celebrates his 25th year as president at the school his father started in 1961, when Melbourne was a very, very different town.
Reading, Pennsylvania native Jonathan Dwight was an educator, coach, aviation enthusiast and entrepreneur who grew up during the Great Depression.
During an airplane ride in the 1950’s, he struck up a conversation with a retired Air Force general.
Among the subjects of discussion during the trip were the then-new Air Force Academy in Colorado, the idea of a military high school that would be patterned after the Academy, the opportunities that existed in Melbourne during the development of the Space Program and the fact that a historic hotel there could make the perfect centerpiece for a new school campus.
SECOND GENERATION LEADERSHIP
In 1961, Dwight bought the Belcelona, as the 1925 hotel by New Haven Avenue was named, from August Rimer, original owner of the Green Bay Packers.
From its very start, Florida Air Academy has been a family-oriented school run by a special family. James Dwight remembers growing up on campus, in the building now known as Phelps Hall.
“My mom, Emmy, taught English and reading,” said Dwight. “It was very much hands-on for the entire family.”
The Dwight family remains still very much a part of the campus. Two grandchildren graduated from the Academy and another one is a current student.
Embracing change to better prepare their students has always been a critical part of the school’s character.
What started as a boarding military school for teens has morphed with the times to include students in grades sixth through twelfth, day students and, in 2005, female students in both boarding and day rosters. The student body is much prettier these days, given the fact that girls now make up a third of it.
Gone are the military uniforms, replaced by sharp-looking polos and shorts from Land’s End. Once required, the Air Force Junior ROTC program, which is in the top 20 percent of similar programs in the country, is now optional, although still very popular.
“Florida Prep is now very much along the lines of prep schools you will find around the country,” said Dwight.
The campus, the largest collection of historic buildings in Brevard County, retains its Spanish Mediterranean charm, but while the buildings may be historic, the curriculum is definitely cutting-edge 21st Century, starting with a solid core of academics and continuing with character-building encouragement.
“We instill leadership, self-discipline, team work, empathy, resiliency and creativity,” said Dwight.
HIGH TECH LEARNING, CULTURALLY RICH
For years, the school has offered a one-to-one Apple iPad Program that incorporates digital learning standards into the curriculum.
Students receive early goal-setting strategies, after-school academic assistance and college planning and preparation throughout the year.
Some things at Florida Prep have not changed, however. The flight program, a cornerstone of the school, remains in place so students can opt to obtain their private pilot’s license.
Florida Prep’s flight school is the largest secondary school flight training program in the world.
The student body remains culturally rich, with students from across the United States and from more than 20 countries around the world.
As the new school year starts, new country flags are invariably added to Florida Prep’s Hall of Flags as symbols of its cultural diversity.
“We’ve always been a global school,” said Dwight.
ABOVE MAP: Florida Prep is a hometown school, located in the heart of Melbourne at 1950 Academy Drive, off West New Haven Avenue.
BUILDING LEADERS IN ALL FIELDS
With a classroom size averaging 16 students, Florida Prep faculty can focus on each individual student’s needs. Florida Prep builds leaders in all fields. Among alumni are graduates of Harvard and other Ivy League schools.
Florida Prep is also a hometown school, with a third of its students from local communities. Dwight expects that figure to grow as parents realize Florida Prep offers the only private secular secondary school experience in the Space Coast.
With a classroom size averaging 16 students, Florida Prep faculty can focus on each individual student’s needs.
Florida Prep builds leaders in all fields. Among alumni are graduates of Harvard and other Ivy League schools.
Prince Fielder, Major League Baseball star with the Texas Rangers, Olympic Athletes and multi-Grammy-winning producers call Florida Prep their alma mater, as do members of Parliament in Bermuda and David Sears, winner of the “Chef Wanted” television reality show.
Florida Prep is accredited by both Advance ED (formally the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) and the Florida Council of Independent Schools. Unlike other private schools in the area, Florida Prep doesn’t shut down when the school day ends.
“We’re here 24/7 for our students,” said Dwight.
For more information about Florida Prep log on to www.FLPrep.com or call 321-723-3211.