School Founder Fellows
This year’s fellows are planning their schools as part of The Drexel Fund’s Founders Program. We are no longer accepting applications for the 2018-19 cohort. The first application deadline for the 2019-20 cohort is December 1.

Kevin Festerling
Kingdom Prep, Milwaukee, Wi.

Kingdom Prep will be an all-boys, faith-based high school that builds a brotherhood in Christ for lives of purpose. With intentional support, academic resources, and biblical training during formative high school years, Kingdom Prep intends to empower young men in Milwaukee to break the cycle of poverty and blaze new productive trails for their families. Based on the four pillars of faith formation, service leadership, experiential discovery, and excellence, Kingdom Prep will be a place where young men develop their God-given gifts to lead in the home, serve in the church, engage in meaningful work, and transform community. Ceremonial rites of passage at Kingdom Prep will mark critical benchmarks for young boys growing into strong Christian men. Passageways into full Kingdom Prep brotherhood will arrive via four-year advisories, “know thyself” counseling, outdoor expeditions, 100 hours of Kingdom service, and 360 degree mentorships.

School founder Kevin Festerling is a leader with 15 years of experience in Milwaukee schools. Kevin invested almost a decade as a teacher and director at St. Marcus Lutheran School, a high-performing inner-city Lutheran elementary school. He then served at Hmong American Peace Academy, the nation’s largest Hmong-centered school, as dean of students for sixth through eighth grades. In 2013, Kevin began coaching teachers and leaders full time, joining Milwaukee’s Center for Urban Teaching. Kevin achieved his degree from Valparaiso University in 2002 with a dual focus in education and psychology.

Mark Martin
Build UP for Urban Prosperity, Birmingham, Ala.

Build UP for Urban Prosperity early college workforce development program will empower and equip young people to deliver the necessary change to revitalize their neighborhoods while taking ownership as well. Over the course of six years starting after 8th grade, 20 youth will annually enter the full-time program, spending half their time in an academic setting gaining knowledge that is directly applicable to paid residential construction apprenticeships. Apprentices will collaboratively rehab 20 blighted, abandoned homes into like-new duplexes, while also earning a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in a field of their choice. Once they have secured jobs paying family-sustaining wages, launched their own small businesses, or matriculated into four-year universities to continue their education, graduates will take over the deeds to the properties, becoming both homeowners and landlords.

School founder Mark Martin recently returned to his home state of Alabama after nearly 15 years away. He most recently graduated Harvard’s Doctor of Education Leadership program where he worked with Jobs For the Future and the Alabama State Department of Education on education-to-career transitions and workforce readiness. Mark previously served as the school director at Langston Hughes Academy, a preK-8 public charter school he cofounded in 2007, and he was a founding Board Member of THRIVE, Louisiana’s first public urban residential school. Investing 15+ years educating children in poverty, Mark began his career with Teach For America in Atlanta’s Woodson Elementary. Mark graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in finance from the University of Alabama and earned an MBA from the University of Georgia.

Sala Sims
STEMSpring Academy,Tampa, Fl.

Concerned with the national statistics that demonstrate that African-American students are not receiving the education that they need to be successful in STEM fields, successful charter educator Sala Sims was motivated to design STEMSpring Academy. STEMSpring will be an innovative science focused pre-K through 8th grade school that will launch in Tampa, Fla. STEMSpring Academy will serve as a springboard for cultivating and inspiring scholars’ deep interest and competency in STEM and will develop scientifically literate, self-aware, and confident scholars who possess the tenacity to pursue and excel in STEM disciplines in elementary school, high school, college, and beyond.

Before being selected as a Drexel Fund school founder, Sala Sims was lead faculty for Atlanta Research Partners. She was the founding principal of Catalyst Circle Rock Elementary and Catalyst Maria Elementary, high-performing charter schools in Chicago. Sala holds a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Illinois, a master’s degree in Teaching and Learning from DePaul, and a master’s in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is passionate about science education and believes that students who start at an early age will become confident scholars.