Dr. Edward Stephens III, chief operating officer for STAR Academy in Raleigh, goes about his business accounting for what he said is reality: “Charter schools are grossly underfunded.”
So, after philanthropist and businessman Preston Byrd showed up Dec. 15 with $250,000, Stephens amplified on the need and what the donation means.
“Our children do not have the same resources of children on the other side of town,” Stephens said. “This $250,000 is a really big deal for STAR Academy.”
STAR Academy is a charter school in Memphis-Shelby County Schools. It is an educational outreach effort of Golden Gate Cathedral, a Full-Gospel Baptist Church.
“Of course, it was pretty crazy when Mr. Byrd made the presentation,” said Stephens. “Our children were pretty excited. The money will go a long way in helping our children lay the groundwork to becoming globally competitive citizens.”
For Byrd, philanthropy is its own reward.
For nearly two decades, Byrd has generously donated a portion of the profits from his Horizon Companies to those who needed it the most.
“It was thrilling to see, not only staff and teachers, but also students so excited about our gift,” said Byrd. “The $250,000 gift to STAR Academy was a great fit for our philanthropic efforts.
“We feel that investing in the education of our own children is important. I hope more individuals in our community who have the means will follow suit.”
Stephens said the school has big plans for the donation.
“Exposure to machine learning, upgrading our programming instruction, and expanding the courses of study that will help our students become competitive global learning. A gift of this magnitude will go a long way,” said Stephens.
“We look to partner with people like Mr. Byrd, pairing the needs of the school to the appetite of the organization. We are extremely grateful to our benefactor and Horizon Organizations.”
Byrd and Horizon Companies have given millions of dollars and goods to address needs in African-American, underserved communities over the years.
“My wife and I have been together for nearly 30 years, married 25 and dated four years through college,” said Byrd. “… She is a teacher, so, those influences have influenced me. Years ago, we started an organization geared around helping, called Operation Help, focusing on supporting children’s programs.”
There are other projects to which Byrd has given that are unrelated to education.
When Hurricane Ian struck Florida in late September, Horizon Companies came to the rescue.
“When the hurricane hit Sarasota, Florida, unfortunately FEMA was unable to get enough resources into the areas where people look like me,” said Byrd. “So, we sent a truckload of goods, products, and food – 80,000 pounds to help. We served … 780 families.”
Byrd founded Horizon in 2004 to focus on development opportunities in the multifamily housing sector. Originally operating as an independent developer, he later expanded the platform to outside investors, who shared the same values.
As a managing partner, he developed and executed revenue enhancement strategies for more than $1 billion in the multifamily housing sector.
He specializes in development, complex financial structuring, and management of risk.
Prior to forming Horizon, Byrd built and sold several multi-million-dollar companies from the healthcare sector to Information Technology.
STAR Academy is categorized as a charter, which are government-funded schools that are allowed to operate independently, like a private school.
Principal James Johnson is administrator.