Charleston businessman Ben Navarro, founder and CEO of Sherman Financial Group, and his wife Kelly, on Monday, March 15, 2021, announced a significant gift through the Beemok Family Foundation that will enhance the College of Charleston’s reputation as a leading educator of teachers.

The Navarros’ substantial philanthropic commitment to the College’s teacher education programs will help to provide resources to recruit exceptional talent. The goal is to help distinguish the university as a nationally recognized training center for teachers who will serve children in public K-12 education, with a focus on schools serving under-resourced children and communities.

Ben and Kelly Navarro

Ben and Kelly Navarro

“The teacher in the classroom is one of the most important reasons a student succeeds, especially for an underserved child,” explains Navarro. “Outstanding teachers can inspire students to dream bigger and find new ways of solving problems in the world. Ensuring that more teachers know how to educate and support under-resourced children will change their academic experience and opportunity in life.”

College of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu says the university shares the Navarros’ commitment to improving public schools by focusing on teacher education.

“Ben and Kelly’s gift aligns perfectly with our new 10-year strategic plan to build the College’s reputation for academic distinction,” says Hsu. “Their vision and support will provide more opportunities for our education majors, not only during their university studies but well into their teaching careers.”

The Navarros have long been driven to improve the education system in South Carolina. In 2008, they founded and opened the first Meeting Street School (MSS), a pre-K-5th grade independent school in Charleston dedicated to creating a world-class private school experience for students who would otherwise not have access to a good education. MSS not only created opportunities for underserved youth, it demonstrated how to close the education gap that exists in many communities. The model proved so successful that a school network was established, and three public schools were opened in North Charleston and Spartanburg utilizing an innovative public-private partnership model with the Charleston County School District.

The Navarros recently announced their Meeting Street Scholarship Fund, which makes any student who graduates from a Charleston County high school and qualifies for a state lottery LIFE or Palmetto Fellows scholarship and a federal Pell Grant eligible to receive $10,000 per year from the fund to help supplement their college education.

With this strong education model in place, the Navarros have set their sights on another game-changing initiative for South Carolina public schools. Schools often struggle to recruit enough qualified teachers, and what better place to draw more educators into the field than the College of Charleston? The university has been successfully preparing future teachers for decades through its teacher education programs.

“Ben and Kelly’s dedication to education in South Carolina has already made a measurable difference in our region, and their positive impact through the Meeting Street Schools is nothing short of remarkable,” says Suzanne Austin, executive vice president of academic affairs and provost at the College of Charleston. “Their generosity will enable the College to invest more in our education programs so that future teachers are better trained and better equipped to guide children from all socio-economic backgrounds toward academic excellence.”

Featured image taken prior to the pandemic.