New HBCU Themed High School Named For Billionaire Robert F. Smith Just Opened In Denver


August 31, 2021

The curriculum is designed to inspire students to attend HBCUs.

A new HBCU themed high school named after billionaire Robert F. Smith just opened in Denver, Vibe reports.


Robert F. Smith is a chemical engineer and billionaire investor thrust into the spotlight after he announced his commitment to covering the student loans and debt for the 2019 graduating class at Morehouse College and their parents. Since then, the Vista Equity Partners CEO has been busy spreading the generosity around, creating an internship program for underrepresented youth, and donating $50 million to supporting students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs)

A new public school in Denver has named itself after Smith, boasting a STEAM curriculum and environment inspired by HBCUs. Smith, a graduate of Denver public schools, was one of the top name choices, the school initially planning to name themselves after Forever First Lady Michelle Obama. The Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy High School recently opened with an inaugural freshman class expected to get the full HBCU experience. Founding Principal Shakira Abney-Wisdom spoke about the significance of the school’s HBCU theme and why it is critical for their students. 

“There is a persistent erasure of the Black experience, of Latinx and indigenous experiences in this nation and world. Our focus is to really center the experience of those of us who have been marginalized and minoritized. We are not, by nature of our existence, ‘less than.’ But our stories have not been valued in the same ways. Our school’s existence is just an act of resilience and resistance to oppressive structures in society. This is a sanctuary, really, a safe space for our scholars to be all that they are, and to grow, to challenge themselves, to challenge one another, to accomplish the goals that they have,” said Abney-Wisdom. 


Interest in historically Black universities has risen over the last year amid a social justice reckoning with schools like Bowie State University and Howard University reporting steady increases in enrollment, even during the pandemic. 

“Our enrollment continues to rise and increase year over year. We’re seeing more students from the West Coast, the Midwest, [and] from the southern states,” said Bowie State University President Aminta Breaux. 

Howard Provost and Chief Academic Officer Anthony Wutoh said the school’s incoming class has “the potential to be [the] largest freshman class ever…certainly in the last 30 years.”


The new Smith Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Academy provides a unique educational experience for students located in a high-needs area of Denver.

“We wanted to create a high-quality option in our neighborhood because a lot of our kids were going outside of our neighborhood, traveling long distances across the city, to find quality options,” said cofounder Samantha Pryor. 

Check out the introduction video for the Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy below.


Photo Courtesy of Denverite

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