Higher Marks celebrates 40 years of providing quality education
July 22, 2019
With public schools facing budget cuts and overcrowding, many parents are turning to private educational institutions as an alternative for their children to thrive and succeed without fear of failure.
Recognizing that her only child – Jahmal Herbert – wasn’t getting the attention he needed and then advised by teachers that he may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was just too much for Michelle Herbert to take.
“When they labelled him as ‘troubled’, I knew that wasn’t my son and that system wasn’t for him anymore,” she said.
While in a hair salon seven years ago, Herbert saw a flyer promoting a private school in Scarborough that offered a challenging, nurturing and stimulating environment.
She enrolled him in Higher Marks Educational Institute (HMEI) in the fall of that year and is absolutely satisfied with the return on her investment.
“I wanted him to be in a positive learning environment surrounded by teachers who looked like him and expected him to excel,” Herbert said at HMEI’s 40th anniversary celebration and graduation. “I wanted them to connect with me so we could work together as a team to ensure his education soared. Higher Marks did everything for me that I wanted for my child. They showed me things I never thought a school could do. Sending him there was the best decision I ever made and every cent was well spent.”
The teenager was among two high school graduates.
“I enjoyed every moment of the seven years I was at the school and I got the help in the areas I needed,” said Herbert who is enrolled in Ryerson University’s Business Management program.
Though Aaron Davis is on a teaching hiatus, he couldn’t miss the opportunity to see Herbert graduate.
“This young man is very committed to learning,” he said. “He was a model student and I had to be here for this very special occasion.”
Merchael Jean-Charles transferred from Archbishop Denis O’Connor Catholic High School in Ajax two years ago.
“Higher Marks take education very seriously and I really benefitted from the ‘up close’ learning,” said Jean-Charles who will pursue Social Work Studies at York University in September.
Students with intellectual disabilities need individualized help that’s available as special education and related services.
When Carol Stephens realized she wasn’t getting that assistance for her son, Nation Weir, who turned 11 on June 23, she made the switch to HMEI.
“His reading has improved, he’s motivated to do homework on his own without me having to push him and his self-esteem has risen,” said the mother of six children.
The 52-year-old Jamaican immigrant was introduced to HMEI during the five-week college faculty strike in 2017.
“I was in my second-year in college doing Social Work and I was behind in my work,” she pointed out. “I went to Higher Marks and they really helped me catch up to the point where I graduated with honours.”
Iyabo Hood was on the verge of pulling her son, Tyion Smith, out of private school, when she found HMEI.
“The pricing was getting a bit steep,” she said. “At the same time, I figured he might get lost in the public school system. Stumbling upon Higher Marks has been a real blessing as Tyion’s reading and math have improved dramatically. I am getting a bang for the buck.”
Brian Boyd’s issues with other public school students were becoming a major concern for parents Clement Boyd and Lavern Walker-Boyd.
“We had a problem with some of his behavior and thought it had to do with him not getting the attention he needed,” said his dad. “We learnt about Higher Marks through a friend and decided to give them a try. There has been a vast improvement in Brian’s behavior and he’s really doing well academically. We think the small class sizes have a lot to do with that.”
As early as Grade One in the public school system, Aisha Wickham realized her son – Jabari Thomas – was encountering challenges.
“I enrolled him in the Saturday tutorial program and when I became aware there was a full-day option, I put him in that,” said the Ontario Creates Ontario Music Office consultant. “Higher Marks offer a loving and supportive environment where students get one-on-one attention. Once my youngest son (Kimani) was of school age, I enrolled him in the full-time program also. It’s an investment. The small class sizes and the curriculum are tailored to the learning pace and style of each student. It is really a unique place.”
Jenae Heron-Kelly is a part-time student at the school.
“The learning supplements what she’s getting in the public school system and that works well,” said her mom, Andrea Heron.
Dr. Ronald Blake established HMEI – Canada’s first Black accredited school -- in 1979 as an alternative private institution to provide specialized tutoring to struggling students.
Nearly 8,500 students have passed through the remedial intervention program.
They include Denise Lacey who joined the school two years after she and her brother – Dr. Krim Lacey – migrated from Jamaica in 1984.
“Our mom learnt about Higher Marks from a family friend mand, after doing her research, she thought it was a place that would give her children the best chance to succeed,” said Lacey is pursuing a Bachelor of Nursing. “I can say with confidence that every successful decision and academic achievement obtained in my life was derived from the foundation laid by Higher Marks. I still have my Grade Five certificate that is a positive reminder of where I came from.”
Lacey’s two sons – Shimar and Samuel Baker – are also Higher Marks graduates.
Krim Lacey, an Assistant Professor African & African-American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, credits the institute for his success.
With an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Criminology, he earned a Master’s from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and a PhD from Wayne State University.
“Every now and then, I look at the certificate I received from Mr. Blake and it reminds me of my journey so far, that included a pivotal stop at Higher Marks where you get a bargain basement deal to invest in young people’s future,” he said.
To encourage academic focus and discipline in students, the school has a dress code and monthly tuition fees for the full-time accelerated program from Tuesdays to Fridays are $800 for kindergarten to Grade Eight students and $900 for Grades Nine to 12 pupils.