Estimated reading time: 21 minute(s)
Minister Farrakhan with students from The Elevated Place
(Photo: Ebony S. Muhammad)
Originally published 12.15.11
If you drive down Cliffdale Street, in Missouri City, Texas, to the cul-de-sac, you will see a humble two-story home to your left. From the outside it appears to be just a normal family residence but inside itâ€™s an entirely different story.
It is the location of the Muslim-owned private school called The Elevated Places.
Small bedrooms, a living room and dining area have been turned into classrooms, giving birth to some impressive accomplishments by the staff and studentsâ€”all rooted in the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad as taught by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
â€œWe always focus on making sure weâ€™re in line with what the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is teaching and do our best job to educate our students,â€ said Wakiti Muhammad, school administrator.
How did it all begin? Wakiti Muhammad and her family lost everything in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. While dealing with the emotional pain of that experience, she was very concerned about the education of her children. With so many Nation of Islam women in the area already homeschooling their children, she decided to network and unite with them in July 2006, with a school in mind.
One of those parents was Melva Muhammad, a mother of eight children. She and her husband Isaiah Muhammad owned the home and were willing to make the sacrifice to turn it into a full-fledged institutionâ€”especially since they were anti-public school.
For seven months, while waiting for the completion of their present new residence, Melva Muhammad and her family slept at night in the house on Cliffdale and woke up every morning to move mattresses to make room for classes in the day time.
â€œWe didnâ€™t have a choice. We couldnâ€™t wait to get a building. The need was so great, we were willing to make that sacrifice for the education of our children,â€ said Melva Muhammad, who has home-schooled all of her children and is also an experienced school administrator.
When deciding upon a name for the school, it was Melva Muhammad who opened to the 7th Surah of the Holy Qurâ€™an titled â€œThe Elevated Placesâ€ and the school was officially founded in 2007 with approximately 35 students.
Now accredited from pre- K to 12th grade, The Elevated Places focuses on high academic and moral standards while working in conjunction with Muhammad Universities of Islam all over the nation to fulfill the vision of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. In addition to high academic skills, the school provides experiences that enable the students to grow socially, emotionally, and artistically.
It has grown to an enrollment of 60 students. On staff are eight full-time and three part-time instructors who work tirelessly every school year to bring out the best in their pupils. Every morning starts with prayer, an intense drill competition, and recitation of various aspects of Islam.
Students have delivered riveting performances in highly attended plays based on the legacy of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, the Best of Broadway and Black Soul Music.
There is a Junior Achievement Club that teaches students how to build a business from ground up. The club was awarded the title of Best New Company of 2010 during an annual city wide competition.
The school partnered with the National Association of Black Engineers (NSBE) to form a Junior Chapter for their students in October 2010. Amazingly, two months later their robotics team competed at the NSBE Fall Regional Conference in New Orleans and walked away with 1st place and the math team placed 2nd.
â€œThe opportunities weâ€™re getting at the Elevated Places such as being a part of these clubs is what makes the school so great,â€ said Abdul Aziz Muhammad, 15.
Abdul Aziz Muhammad, a 10th grader, is a member of the award-winning robotics team that eventually went on to compete at the National NSBE competition in St. Louis. â€œThe teachers are a lot more caring here and it is like coming to a family environment every day,â€ he said.
Future computer engineer Aishah Muhammad, 15, has experienced the environment of attending a public school. â€œThe public school teachers really donâ€™t have the same care for you. The teachers at the Elevated Places will not only help turn your weaknesses into strengths but challenge you to make your strengths even stronger. Itâ€™s a challenging, yet comforting environment,â€ she expressed.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t want to be at any other school. Itâ€™s very nurturing. The classes help us focus on what goals we should have,â€ said Ayinde Muhammad, 13, who wants to be an electronic engineer.
This past summer, Ayinde Muhammad won the Shell Oil leadership award along with a free laptop computer at the close of a STEM camp at Texas Southern University.
School field trips have included the NASA space center, Houston City Hall, various museums and more. The school has taken frequent trips to the 40-acre farmland in Winnie, Texas owned by several members of Muhammad Mosque No. 45. The students have witnessed how raw milk is extracted from cows and why it is beneficial for good health. They have also learned how to produce butter, cheese, an aquaponic system and even deodorant.
â€œWeâ€™re instilling in them the idea of having land and producing products that our people need to survive,â€ said Wakiti Muhammad.
â€œI have to be honest that I didnâ€™t expect us to do all that we have been blessed to accomplish. But we believe in what weâ€™re taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan that weâ€™re destined for greatness. We must take our belief and go to work,â€ said Melva Muhammad, whose two eldest children teach Spanish and Tae Kwon Do classes.
The school does not receive any U.S. government funding and keeps its doors open with financial support from Muslim businesses and those who believe in independent education.
â€œWe have brothers with businesses that have donated largely to the success of the school. Even people who donâ€™t have students here have come by to donate because they have heard about the work weâ€™re doing,â€ said Wakiti Muhammad. â€œWe donâ€™t want to receive government funding because we want to keep the freedom necessary to bring about the vision of Minister Farrakhan.â€
Another important component has been the parents, who sometimes can be nonexistent in traditional schools. Parents of The Elevated Places do monthly fundraising, provide mentorship and volunteer to chaperone field trips and teach life skills classes.
â€œWe would not be where we are without the unity of the parents. They bring a lot of their resources to the table to ensure that the school has whatever it needs and can cut expenses,â€ said Wakiti Muhammad.
Special guests at the school have included NOI theologian Jabril Muhammad, London micro artist Willard Wigan, National MUI director Dr. Larry Muhammad, Student Minister Nuri Muhammad, Black pilot Nia Wordlaw, Math Doctor Shahid Muhammad, and more.
Brother Ishmael Muhammad, Minister Farrakhanâ€™s Assistant Student Minister at Mosque Maryam in Chicago, made a surprise appearance at the school on Nov. 10. He was so impressed with what he witnessed that he presented the staff and students to Minister Farrakhan that evening during a Believers Meeting at the mosque. Minister Farrakhan sat on stage with a huge smile as the students sung their school song.
â€œI was extremely emotional because it was a blessing to be in front of Minister Farrakhan,â€ said Asha Muhammad, 11.
â€œThat moment is still very surreal to me because that is the man weâ€™re teaching our children about that we must follow, not only in words, but in action to make his vision a reality,â€ said Wakiti Muhammad.
â€œIâ€™m extremely proud and very humbled. Allah willing, we will be doing even more at The Elevated Places for years to come,â€ said Melva Muhammad.