Here at IP, we’ve talked a lot about the Kinder Foundation’s support for parks in Houston, like the Bayou Greenway, but a big new grant reminded us that this isn’t all that Kinder cares about. Today, we shift our attention toward its education funding.
The Kinder Foundation recently committed to a $1 million matching capital campaign to construct the Lawson Academy, formally named WALIPP Preparatory Academy. This grant was awarded to the William A. Lawson Institute for Peace and Prosperity, which is a nonprofit created in 1996 to extend the work of Reverend William A. Lawson, a Baptist pastor passionate about community engagement and equal opportunity.
The academy opened in 2002 and was categorized under H.I.S.D. for nine years as an external charter before receiving a Texas State Charter in 2010. This is a middle school for students in grades six through eight with two campuses, one for boys and one for girls. It’s a charter school, but it's an open-enrollment public institution with requisite parental commitment.
Notably, this education grant is going toward a capital campaign and construction, two things often found on foundations’ “do not fund” lists. Then again, this is Kinder’s bread and butter. In addition to Bayou Greenways, Kinder also funded the George W. Bush Institute and the George W. Bush Presidential Center with a $10 million grant. Big grants for construction are what this funder specializes in.
The Kinders’ gift is the largest donation so far for the academy’s $4.5 million capital construction campaign. The foundation’s president, Nancy Kinder said, “The Kinder Foundation’s hope is that this gift will encourage others to support the construction of The Lawson Academy which is so critical to the education of young students in the Third Ward and we are excited to aid in the work of the Lawson Family.”
Interestingly, the grant supports youth in the Third Ward of Houston. There have been ongoing debates about gentrification of the Third Ward and its threat to African American culture in the city. Race and racial equality are big issues here, so this big commitment to education touches on some larger issues facing local youth living here as well. Reverend Lawson’s home was the Third Ward, and he is known as one of the long-time civil rights champions of the area.
The newly built Lawson Academy will start seeing students transition over from the current location in January 2017 and will be located at 5052 Scott Street.