Academy Prep Center of Lakeland is a rigorous private middle school for students qualifying for need-based scholarships in Lakeland, Florida. Academy Prep students attend school 11 hours a day, 6 days a week, 11 months a year. Academic classes are taught separately by gender.


To inspire and empower students qualifying for need-based scholarships to become future community leaders through a rigorous middle school program coupled with ongoing graduate support.

Statement of Philosophy:

Academy Prep Center of Lakeland is a tuition-free, independent center for education for middle-school aged children who qualify for need-based scholarships. In the atmosphere of an extended family, Academy Prep encourages and teaches students to excel in academics, ethical and moral understanding and judgment, and life skills. Opening its doors in 2019, it is modeled after its predecessors, Nativity Mission Center, which opened in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York, in 1971, as well as the Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg, in operation in south St. Petersburg since 1997 and Academy Prep Center of Tampa in operation in Ybor City since 2003.

The school is dedicated to educating economically-disadvantaged students by providing an academically challenging, enriching and structured environment followed by eight years of support and guidance through high school and college.

Academy Prep admits students who demonstrate the ability to handle a rigorous and demanding academic program designed to prepare them for success in secondary school and college. Through its year-round program, the school promotes the intellectual, athletic, and social development of its students. Academy Prep students and graduates are expected to act as mature and responsible individuals who contribute to their communities and demonstrate charity and concern in all their actions.


To be the premier Lakeland urban middle school which prepares hundreds of economically disadvantaged students to achieve academic success and become community leaders.

In our Lakeland community, many remarkable young people dream of a real opportunity for success and fulfillment. These children are talented, creative, and have the will to transform their lives – lives that will in turn transform our community. However, these kids live in some of the more impoverished areas of Lakeland. Most live in single-parent households and know few people who have graduated from college. Many of their families live day to day struggling to make ends meet. These tenacious youngsters live among us – just down the road.

In our own backyard, Academy Prep provides one of the most unique education programs in Florida. We are more than a middle school. At the core of our mission, Academy Prep provides an exemplary, college preparatory middle school education coupled with a wide range of life changing services, while closely supporting our graduates all the way through high school, college and into their careers. This combination of strategies helps guide Academy Prep students to a life fulfilled.

Academy Prep is transforming lives in the community, one child at a time.

Academy Prep Students:

  • must be eligible for the free or reduced-price federal school meals program, setting their income near or below the poverty line.
  • attend school up to 11 hours a day, 6 days a week, nearly year round in small classes of no more than 17 boys or 17 girls, with most classes taught by gender.
  • receive a full range of academics, including advanced level English, literature, mathematics, science, social studies, writing, art, drama, library skills, and computer lab.
  • participate each day in afternoon enrichment programs including classes and programs in dance, various sports, career development, social skills, leadership skills, and community service.
  • participate in a mandatory study hall Monday through Thursday from 5:00 – 6:05 pm.
  • take part in required Saturday field trips, community service activities, and an 11th month program in June.
  • are served by a variety of corporate and non-profit community partners and individuals with over 9,000 hours of volunteer time – a third of that service completed by our families.
  • are closely supported by our Graduate Support Services staff, helping each graduate and his/her family through the opportunities and challenges of high school and college.


The Academy Prep Centers for Education are based upon the Nativity Miguel Network of Schools, a proven academic model for economically disadvantaged children utilized across the country for over 40 years. Currently there are three Academy Prep schools – separate not-for-profit private sister schools located in Tampa, Lakeland and St. Petersburg. Academy Prep leaders started the St. Petersburg Center in 1997. Encouraged by the first Center’s success, the Academy Prep Center of Tampa opened in 2003. Academy Prep Center of Lakeland is housed in the former John Cox Elementary School built in 1928. The Academy Prep Center of Lakeland renovated this building, and reopened its doors in 2019 to continue serving the community’s youth.