Laura Jeffrey Academy

Laura Jeffrey Academy (LJA), a Twin Cities’ charter school, provides a girl-focused educational opportunity for grades 5 through 8. As a public school it welcomes all students, but focuses on girls when they are going into their ‘tween years because of the messages girls hear in society such as they are not as good in science, math and engineering. LJA sees one of its goals being to help scholars develop their sense of self as they learn about being citizens in the community around them.

The school starts students in middle school in the 5th grade, which is different than most schools, and puts the 5th and 6th grades together. In addition to being a critical time in a child’s development, this is designed to help transition and ease students into middle school so they feel more comfortable and can better understand the school’s culture.

“With a motto of ‘Asking Questions. Making Choices.’ we provide experiential and interactive classroom instruction that engages the students in discussion and thinking through the process of finding a solution,” said Jennifer Schiller, Executive Director of LJA, “ and encourages them to voice their opinions as they discover who they are and who they will become.”

“Laura Jeffrey Academy offers a unique experience in the Twin Cities because of its focus of girls,” said Phil Hatlie, loan officer at Propel Nonprofits (formerly Nonprofits Assistance Fund). “While all are welcome at the school, this emphasis provides an important option that is not necessarily being filled in the same way at other schools.”

Besides focusing on girls and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, LJA also features a comprehensive liberal arts education, physical activity and health, and arts and music. This curriculum appeals to a diverse student body. “We strive for diversity, which helps students learn about equity, race and gender in our space,” said Jennifer.

While Propel Nonprofits has had a relationship with LJA since before it opened 9 years ago, including a previous line of credit, recently the partnership had consisted of providing financial guidance when questions arose at the school. However, last year LJA’s bank was not able to provide it the line of credit as it had in the past, so Jennifer turned to Phil Hatlie at Propel Nonprofits for assistance.

“I knew Phil, had worked with him, and knew he was a supporter of the school,” said Jennifer. “The school needed the line of credit right then and there, and Propel Nonprofits was able to approve it quickly and supply the money. Propel Nonprofits really helped us – without the line of credit we would have been in trouble.”

“The good thing is that when LJA came to us for the loan, we already knew them and already had a relationship established. That made is easy to just focus in their current request to determine how we could best assist them with it,” said Phil.

Jennifer does not know what needs there might be in the future for LJA, such as when its building lease comes up in two years. But she knows that Propel Nonprofits will be a resource because of its deep connections and understanding of the unique characteristics of charter-school financing.

Jennifer also likes that some of the funding for the financial guidance provided by Propel Nonprofits comes from philanthropic organizations, which gives those organizations the opportunity to support organizations like LJA without the schools having to individually find all those connections.

“Propel Nonprofits is a great resource for everything because it gets the big picture,” she said. “I would recommend it for sure because of the depth and breadth of its knowledge.”

For more information about Laura Jeffrey Academy, click here.

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