About the Centers for Education

Founded in 1996, Academy Prep Centers for Education is a network of private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, co-educational college preparatory middle schools located in St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Lakeland, Florida, serving underrepresented students in grades 5 through 8.


In the atmosphere of an extended family, the Centers for Education encourage and teach students to excel in academics, ethical and moral understanding and judgment, and life skills. The Centers are based on the Nativity Mission Center, which opened in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York, in 1971, and are dedicated to educating economically-disadvantaged students by providing an academically challenging, enriching and and structured environment followed by eight years of support and guidance through high school and college.

The first Academy Prep Center for Education was founded by Jeff and Joan Fortune and other community leaders in St. Petersburg's midtown community in 1997. After serving only boys for three years, the campus welcomed its first class of girls in the summer of 2000. Encouraged by the success of the first Center, the Foundation renovated the original V.M. Grammar School Building in Ybor City, Tampa, and Academy Prep Center of Tampa opened in 2003. In 2019, the Foundation opened its third Center located in Lakeland.