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Students’ feat earns BVP teacher skydiving journey with Gist

September 27, 2013

LINCOLN – Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy’s Drew Madden, 27, admits skydiving was never really on his list of things to do someday.
But that won’t keep Madden from bailing out of a plane over Middletown this afternoon with Commissioner of Education Deborah A. Gist.

Madden, a noted math instructor for the Blackstone Valley Prep charter school network serving Lincoln, Cumberland, Central Falls and Pawtucket, made a commitment over the summer to support the middle school’s reading program, and his skydiving excursion is the payoff of that endeavor.

“I said to the school’s scholars that if they met the challenge, I would jump out of a plane,” Madden said Friday.

The Blackstone Valley Prep scholars at the middle school, on Fairlawn Way off Smithfield Avenue, wasted no time in taking on the summer reading challenge, and even put up a thermometer on a wall of the school showing their progress in getting Madden into the skydiving plane.

Gist had issued a similar “Dive into a Book” challenge statewide, and will also be traveling to Newport Airport in Middletown to skydive with Madden at Skydive Newport at 3 p.m., according to her office.
Madden said the fact that he started out as a Blackstone Valley Prep math teacher and now manages math and data analysis for the charter school network made him all the more interested in supporting the reading program.

“The fact that I am a math teacher and I am also dedicated to reading shows our scholars the importance of reading,” he said.
Once the middle school’s scholars got behind the drive, there was no turning back for Madden, even though the thought of jumping out of a plane had him feeling nervous Friday.

“I am putting a lot of trust into the people at Skydive Newport, but I hear they have a great program down there in Newport and I don’t feel I have to worry,” he said.

Madden and Gist will each be strapped to a professional skydiver from the company and will not have to manage the details of opening the parachute or making the landing themselves.

Whether he ever skydives again will depend on what he experiences Saturday afternoon, he added. “I will see how the experience goes, but I’m not anticipating doing it again,” he said.

Joy Souza, head of school at Blackstone Valley Prep Middle School, said Friday that the whole school is looking forward to Madden’s adventure, and many of its scholars and teaching staff members will be going to Newport to see him skydive.

“I am excited for him and we are extremely proud of him,” Souza said. “I think it shows a commitment to our scholars for him to do something like that. He is always so enthusiastic.”

Elizabeth Laguerre, a grades 7 and 8 English language arts teacher at the middle school, was also impressed by Madden’s commitment to the school.

“I think it is awesome, and the kids are really excited about it. I can’t wait to see the video,” Laguerre said while noting a helmet camera tape of the jump will be played at the school when Madden returns.

Another Blackstone Valley Prep ELA teacher who has worked with Madden, Brooke Leonhard, said she had a chance to skydive last summer while doing a group skill-building project and knows what Madden is in for Saturday afternoon.

“It’s a real treat,” she said. Dropping out of the plane will be a life-changing experience, but once he is in free fall things will seem better, according to Leonhard. “Once he’s doing it, he won’t be nervous,” she said.

In addition to the Fairlawn Way middle school, the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy also operates a grades K-2 academy at 7 Fatima Drive in Cumberland, and a K-4 academy at 291 Broad St. in Cumberland.


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