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Julia Roberts, Dyslexia Advocate and daughter of Hal and Marjorie Roberts, speaking on stage at dedication ceremony.

The Roberts Academy Expansion Project Dedication Ceremony

Feb 21, 2024

Crowd listening to speakers at The Roberts Academy dedication ceremony.The Roberts Academy at Florida Southern College proudly announces the successful completion of the Middle School expansion project, showcasing a state-of-the-art middle school and brand-new gymnasium facility. The Academy recently hosted a dedication ceremony to commemorate this momentous achievement, paying tribute to its groundbreaking accomplishment and unwavering commitment to fostering academic success for students with dyslexia.

Established in 2010, The Roberts Academy was generously funded by Lakeland civic leaders and philanthropists Hal and Marjorie Roberts, primarily aiming to prepare dyslexic students with academic excellence. Serving as a transitional school for grades 2nd through 8th, The Roberts Academy is the first campus in Florida and one of a few in the country. The curriculum addresses challenges early and head-on to mitigate frustration and bolster self-esteem. Personalized instruction and diverse teaching and learning resources help educators and students.

Children climbing rock wall in the gymnasium as parents and others watch below.The newly expanded middle school features state-of-the-art facilities, including a gymnasium with a rock wall, robotics and media labs, a cafeteria, an outdoor workspace, and nine additional classrooms and offices. The structure was built to provide space for students to learn indoor sports, expand on STEM activities through robotics, and accommodate live TV productions.

Dr. Kim Kelley, Head of School, is recognized for growing and expanding The Roberts Academy. Dr. Kelley began her career in 2011 as a classroom teacher for grades 3 to 6 at Roberts. While actively teaching, she obtained her master's and doctorate degrees and was appointed to her current position in 2020. Dr. Kelley has watched the school continuously grow in enrollment, with 181 current students and 17 classroom teachers as of 2024.

"I am most proud of the recognition that the Roberts Academy is now receiving throughout the community as a school that provides a positive learning environment for students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia," said Dr. Kelley.

The dedication ceremony witnessed the acknowledgments of several individuals whose efforts contributed to the program's growth. Guest Speaker Julia Roberts, daughter of Hal and Marjorie Roberts, expressed the emotional experience of navigating dyslexia with her son, Liam.

"It really makes me emotional because I was that parent crying, begging for answers because Liam couldn't read. I got help at a transitional school and Liam finally felt like he belonged, and he realized he was smart."

Saylor Kirkpatrick speaking at podium.Saylor Kirkpatrick, former Roberts Academy student, expressed how the Academy facilitated her learning and helped her discover a passion she once thought impossible. "I hope this fills you up with hope and joy, that there are good times ahead, and that your child will be successful...I am not saying that learning becomes easier for students with disabilities like me, but I am rather saying having the right people working with your children can and will make it possible." Kirkpatrick is now a first-year student at Florida Southern College, majoring in Elementary Education to help students succeed like her teachers did for her.

At Thursday’s ceremony, the City of Lakeland Commissioners honored Hal and Marjorie with a proclamation from Mayor Bill Mutz, designating March 15th as Hal and Marjorie Roberts Day in Lakeland, recognizing them for their contributions to creating a transformative learning environment for people with dyslexia.

Dr. Anne B. Kerr speaking at podium.Dr. Anne Kerr, President of Florida Southern College, revealed that the Robotics Lab will be named the Julia Roberts Robotics Lab in recognition of her impactful advocacy, describing her as "a powerful and effective ambassador." It was also announced that the Gymnasium will be named the Lynn and Terry Dennis Gymnasium in recognition of their leadership in the construction process. Lastly, the Media Lab was named in honor of Dr. Tracey Tedder for her role in the creative process of establishing the school.

Expanding the middle school marks a significant milestone for The Roberts Academy, reinforcing the commitment to empower students with dyslexia on their academic journey. The Academy looks forward to continuing its mission of fostering excellence and transforming student lives through education.

Members of the Roberts family and others cutting a ribbon to celebrate the completion of The Roberts Academy Middle School Expansion project.