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Hidden gem at RCMA Wimauma Community Academy

RCMA Academy
Posted at 5:42 AM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 15:30:46-04

WIMAUMA, Fla. — Students at RCMA Wimauma Community Academy who call themselves The Chicken Tenders love taking care of the chickens on the school's K-8 campus.

"We take care of them. We bathed them."

The coop sits next to a garden and hydroponics, all of which teach the students' life skills and even math.

"This is just an amazing place to work, an amazing school. I think we're a diamond in the rough and kind of a hidden gem in Wimauma," Mark Haggett, Principal at RCMA Wimauma Community Academy said. "I kind of liked that. But a fantastic program of fantastic staff, families, the family engagement is so high here and they're so involved. They want what's best, just like any other parent wants for their kiddos."

The school is dual language and caters to migrant families in Wimauma and surrounding communities.

Haggett just celebrated 20 years at the campus.

"I celebrated my 20th year in July, and I come from a farm working family myself from Northern New York state. So can kind of relate to the amount of work and the effort that parents provide so that their kids can have a better education," Haggett said. "Our kids are some of the most resilient kids I've ever seen. They're very hardworking. They always try their best. And they know that many of them will be the first to graduate high school and go on to college. So a pretty impressive group of kids to work with it. It's a very rewarding experience to work here."

Haggett also surrounds himself with a team of teachers and educators that are making a difference. The Tampa Bay Lightning even took notice. Joe Puente was named a Lightning Community Hero and granted a $50,000 grant for RCMA.

"So we're a nonprofit organization. So we got to do a lot of funding for any projects we may have. And one of our big projects is getting a roof over our sports court," explained Puente. " And we got the $50,000 for the court. So that's going to contribute to that."

Puente is the Sports Director at the school. Many kids here play soccer so being introduced to hockey was new for many of them.

"Learn different ways to control the ball, especially with your hand, because you're gonna have a stick. But it was a sport worth learning."

But for Puente, this was important.

"So I was raised within the community. And I know the life that a lot of our students live because I come from the same life. And I want to basically kind of show them that, if they really try, especially with sports, they can make it and it just shows it shows you to live a better way of life," said Puente.

In turn, Puente has helped their ball hockey team win tournaments.

"The main part is like the kids getting the exposure because hockey is so new to our community. So showing them that we actually have a previous student who's transitioned to ice hockey from learning ball hockey, and he's hopefully you know, going to play I hope he plays for the league one day. And I know he dreams big dreams," Puente said.

In turn, RCMA is growing across the state. Right now, they're getting ready to expand with a school in Mulberry.

"I think it's a safe place where students feel comfortable, and they can access opportunities," Linda Miles Adams, RCMA Board Director said. "Part of our mission is to open doors to opportunities. So we have lots of great partnerships around Tampa, from this school that helped the children see, see their dreams and see what they can become."

You can read more about their mission by clicking here.