The Texas Empowerment Academy (TxEA) Roland Hayes Campus (named after the Chair of the Board of Directors, Roland Hayes) is expanding to a bigger and better campus, with its grand opening set for January 2024. We spoke with Llyas Salahud-din, the academy’s Chief Development Officer, for more insight on the project and what can be expected at the new campus.
“It feels incredible to lead a project that will leave a legacy in the community,” said Salahud-din. “African-American youth lag academically behind their peers nationally, statewide, and locally. We proudly state that TxEA is opposite the narrative, and students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Expanding means we can continue serving more students and families and have an institution that prepares students for the future,” continued Salahud-din.
The academy’s founder and superintendent, David W. Nowlin, has worked in the charter school sector for over 20 years. As an Operation Desert Storm veteran, Superintendent Nowlin used his GI Bill to attend the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in African-American studies. After graduating, Nowlin began thinking about how he could best serve the youth of his community. So he decided to teach at a charter school. In 1998, he and a team received a charter for Texas Empowerment Academy, and the curriculum chosen for the charter was aimed at nurturing the student’s needs and aspirations to be catalysts for their success in life.
Like with any construction project, obstacles arose. However, they began cascading pretty heavily for the academy “We are a small charter school, so the team and I had to wear many hats during the campaign. First, it took us over a year to find land in Austin. Once we found land, we went under contract. About two months into the contract, COVID-19 hit, and we decided not to continue because the priority was the safety of our students and keeping the organization afloat,” Salahud-din mentioned.
After about nine months, the school proceeded to look for land again, and coincidentally, the lot they previously had under contract was available; however, due to the housing boom, the price went up substantially. Everything that was happening globally was affecting the project. In addition to COVID-19, the Suez Canal ship blockage and the Russia-Ukraine war negatively affected United States construction costs. Overall, Llyas raised $12 million in equity, which eventually allowed the academy to secure an $18 million nonprofit bond. Once complete, the total construction cost will be $39 million.
It feels incredible to lead a project that will leave a legacy in the community
When asked what advancements could be expected at the new Roland Hayes campus, Salahud-din stated, “The new campus will give us room to breathe. It will be 89,000 square feet, equipped with a commercial kitchen, a performing arts stage with state-of-the-art AV equipment, a library, playgrounds, a board room, a computer lab, and a UIL basketball gym.”
TxEA is close-knit, and having a sense of community is essential. The campus strives to have its parents, students, staff, and faculty feel like they are part of a family. Most importantly, they work hard to ensure students feel seen, heard, and loved. The academics come easy once you can connect on the social-emotional level.
The Texas Empowerment Academy has a college dual enrollment program, which is imperative to the school’s mission. “We partnered with Austin Community College four years ago as a pilot program. We are going on our fourth year of 100% college acceptance and enrollment. To date, not one student has dropped out of college. Students earn 36 college credit hours before graduation, saving each parent about $28,000.” Llyas added.
Also integral to the program is the band. TxEA focuses on jazz, R&B, and soul. Students start learning music as early as elementary school and are proficient in reading music by the 6th grade. Every band student who has graduated from TxEA has received a full-ride scholarship. The school is also excited to have a pre-K 3 and 4 program. They believe that when you can start the learning process early for students, it pays off long-term.
Finally, the school has recently brought on board Kwame Cavil, a University of Texas alumni. He still holds UT’s single-season reception record and had a brief stint in the NFL. “Kwame has had experience developing successful athletic programs, and we are excited to have him lead our department!” said Salahud-din.
The school is less than two months away from its grand opening, and below are a few ways the community can help make it a success:
- Donations to furnish the building are especially needed. Thanks to a generous $2 to $1 matching grant from the Moody Foundation, any furniture donation is doubled!
- Please also consider giving to their new scholarship fund or athletic department fund to support youth in our community.
- Help build an inclusive playground outside the center where all children can play.
- Spread the word about their mission, take a tour, or enroll your child!
- Teachers work hard, and they are the reason for the school’s impact. Feel free to reach out for ways to support the TxEA teachers.