Committed to ‘educating the whole child’

MONROE – Students are barely past the midpoint of the academic year, but Union Academy Charter School already has its sights set on the 2014-15 school year as the school hosts its annual general lottery and prepares to welcome new students in August.

The general lottery, for children who do not have siblings already attending Union Academy, runs through Feb. 14, a Friday, and parents can fill out and submit their application online. The drawing will be held March 9, a Sunday, at 2 p.m.

Union Academy was founded in 2000 as a kindergarten-through-fourth-grade school and added a grade every subsequent year until it officially became a K-12 school in 2009. The institution offers three schools – a lower school (kindergarten through fourth grade), middle school (fifth through eighth grade) and high school (ninth through 12th grade) – at two different locations. The upper campus is located at 675 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and the lower campus sits at 3828 Old Charlotte Hwy.

As a charter school, Union Academy is a public school that operates independently of the local school district. The school is tuition free and open to all students who wish to enroll, and it receives funding from local, state and federal tax dollars based on enrollment. But charter schools do not receive funds from the state or county for any capital costs, such as building new facilities or maintaining existing buildings – which is why parent and community involvement is so important, Lynn Kroeger, the school’s chief financial officer, said.

“We have to build our own building, and the (government) funds to support that building – none of that comes to us,” Kroeger said.

Families are asked to contribute 60 volunteer hours to the school, as well as become involved with the Union Academy Foundation, a nonprofit that organizes fundraisers and looks for other ways to financially support the school.

“Our fundraisers are significant throughout the year,” Kroeger said, adding large fundraisers include an Ultimate Charity Auction, 5K and spring festival.

The school’s main educational background is rooted in three concepts, according to headmaster Dr. Ann Walters – challenge, character and community. Educators seek to challenge students to improve their academic performance while also fostering good character and focusing on giving back to the community.

“We’re educating the whole child … we want children to have the opportunity to come to a school where those three things are important,” Walters said. “We’re building on the students’ character.”

Union Academy stresses eight character traits among students – compassion, adaptability, respect, responsibility, optimism, trustworthiness, perseverance and initiative. Elementary and middle school students focus on one character trait each month during the school year, while high school students typically incorporated the eight traits into their everyday duties and activities.

“The words are more used in conversations with correcting or complimenting a behavior” with high-school students, Katie Stewart, high school principal, said.

Union Academy also encourages students to give back to the community through various projects and required community service hours. Students from the lower campus volunteer with local hospitals, animal shelters and the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte, while the middle school students often work with the Union County Christmas Bureau, Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, the American Red Cross and other agencies.

Most high schools students initiate their own community service efforts, which have included working with the Common Cupboard food bank in Indian Trail, spring cleanup, refurbishing computers for underprivileged Union County students, organizing sock and clothing drives and volunteering at United Way’s Day of Caring.

“There are just all kinds of (projects) that students are interested in,” Stewart said. “A lot of clubs take on projects, as well.”

Union Academy offers many different clubs and extracurricular activities including glee, paintball, folk dance and mock trial clubs, as well as honors societies, band, theater and “about any sport you can think of,” Walters said.

Walters said the school’s future goals include implementing more technology and continuing to find ways to keep students engaged in their studies.

“We’re trying to do what we can (to implement) technology in a way we haven’t before,” she said. “We’re figuring out how we can stay ahead of that and keep learning exciting to the kids.”

Find more information at the school’s website,, and download an application for the lottery at sions/lottery. Call the upper campus at 704-238-8883 or the lower campus at 704-283-5678 to schedule a tour of the schools.


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