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Inside the classrooms of Grace Academy on Hartford’s Main Street, there’s a spirit that for the girls here, nothing is unreachable.

The independent middle school, founded in 2010, is made up of just under 60 girls, currently all students of color in grades 5 through 8. The school’s mission is to help girls from the greater Hartford area harness their full potential to grow into well-rounded young women who will change the world.

“Grace Academy is a star in Hartford. We love to call ourselves a community because that’s exactly what we are. When you come to Grace Academy, you feel like you’re at home” says Princess Hyatt, Grace Academy head of school and executive director.

A Hartford native herself, Hyatt hopes to represent possibility for the school’s students. At Grace Academy, there’s an extended day. Students are in school for classes and activities from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Classes are small with just 10 to 15 students.

Exposure is a key part of the Grace education. Students play squash, row crew, and learn about robotics, medicine dance and more careers and educational opportunities that might fall outside of their immediate surroundings.

“When we think about our mission and transforming the lives of girls, I’m thinking about how we can break generational curses, some of those systematic things that can prevent students from really thriving and growing,” said Hyatt.

Grace Academy is tuition-free, funded entirely by sponsors and donations. One of their major areas of focus is preparing the girls to attend private high schools after graduation – should they choose – and guiding them in the process to get there before heading to college Grace alums have gone on to attend schools like Miss Porter’s, Wesleyan, Ethel Walker School, Glastonbury Agriscience, Loomis Chaffee and others.

The school earmarks budget dollars to support students who choose to attend private school, including financial aid to support their tuition costs. Many graduates are also offered partial and full scholarships.

In the seventh and eighth grade, students are set up with one-on-one mentors who guide them through getting to high school and college and often remain with them for years beyond.

In 10 graduating classes, Grace Academy has produced almost 130 graduates. They’re a new generation of young women leaders, who got their start in Hartford.

“Grace Academy girls should leave here with the sense that they can do anything in the world that they can try everything in the world,” said Hyatt. Grace Academy’s annual fundraising benefit “The Power of Grace” will be held on Wednesday, May 3 in West Hartford.

To learn more about Grace Academy and the benefit event, click here.