MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Valiant Cross Academy is an all-boys school in Montgomery whose mission is to transcend the challenges facing young African-American males in the city by developing character through rigorous academics and leadership training.
The founders of Valiant Cross, Anthony and Fredrick Brock, opened the school in 2015 with one goal in mind: to provide a loving, stable, and educational opportunity for young men in Montgomery. One of the ways they help do this is by exposing scholars to strong, Black male role models on campus like their new Head Football Coach and Assistant Principal of Culture Willie Spears.
“What’s great about Valiant Cross is the same expectation that there is in the classroom, in the hallway, is the same expectation on the football field and that’s an expectation of excellence,” said Spears. “I’m excited to be a part of that. My values, my morals, my faith, are a direct line with what Valiant Cross already does.”
For the first time in the schools 6-year history, Valiant Cross is going to have a Varsity Football Program.
Their new varsity football program will be competing in the Alabama Independent Sports Association (AISA) league. There are five teams in the region, the top four teams go to the playoffs, and the winner plays the state championship at Troy University.
The Warriors start the season off on Aug. 21 in Thomasville, Georgia against Brookwood School. The Warriors home games will be played on the Alabama State University Field in Montgomery.
“We haven’t been here long enough to be anyone’s rival, so if you’re in Montgomery, we already count you as a fan of the Warriors,” Spears said. “If your team’s not playing on Thursday night or they’re playing out of town, come watch us!”
Spears said he is hoping to lead the boys to victory on and off the field.
“Football for the first time in my life is not the most important factor of me taking a job,” said Spears. “I’ve been a head football coach at seven different schools. I’ve been blessed to be coach of the year a few times and teacher of the year, but I’ve never taken a job and been this excited about the academic side.”
Every year since the school opened they have added a new grade level of students. As of right now they teach grades 6th-11th grade, so they don’t have any seniors yet.
“It’s not your traditional setting in a lot of ways,” Spears said. “From not having a band and cheerleaders, to not having a traditional gymnasium, but also not having a traditional learning environment and that’s where the Dean of Culture comes in.”
Valiant Cross hired Spears as the Assistant Principal of Culture to help uphold the schools unique culture.
“My job is to make sure that I keep the teachers and students accountable to the already established culture here at Valiant Cross,” Spears said.
A culture founded on three key tiers: excellence, integrity, and love.
“What I really love about Valiant Cross is that the entire theme is love,” Spears said. “They want to start with love and end with love and throughout the day we want that young man to say ‘man I felt loved today’. I didn’t do great on that math test, but I felt loved. I didn’t do great at football practice, but I felt loved.”
“In between classes, this is different, but you’re going to see teachers dancing,” he continued. “Part of my job is to make sure teachers are dancing in the classroom, dancing in the hallway, high fiving scholars and they have to say ‘I love you.’”
Spears said Valiant Cross is a school where a scholar’s improvement is based on regularly viewed metrics and data driven instruction.
“Here there is constant, consistent measurement for the teachers and students all the time,” Spears said. “There has to be a quantitative value put to the assignment. So we don’t just watch videos, we don’t just pass out work sheets. Everything is intentional.”
Valiant Cross is still a growing Academy, but Spears said the founders of the school, Anthony Brock and Fredrick Brock, hope to see Valiant Crosses popping up in every city.
“They want to encourage, they want to educate others, they want to facilitate trainings to have other school districts have this same model in their town,” Spears said. “Because it makes a difference.”
Spears has also been a motivational speaker since 2006 and is the author of his newest book Culture Creators: Creating Culture for Your Team or Organization. He is having a book signing on Tuesday if you would like to meet him and welcome him to Montgomery.