Dr. Jeff Skowronek and Principal Geri Henry standing in the entrance of the Riverview Pepin Academies campus.

It is a given that not everyone will have the same experience in school, but many students can find themselves struggling because the public school system may not be able to serve their needs. This is where Pepin Academies steps in and shines.

Pepin Academies, established in 1999, are 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, tuition-free, public charter schools that are specialized in giving students with learning and learning-related disabilities the education they need that other schools cannot offer. Pepin Academies teaches students from 3rd through 12th grade and offers a Transition Program in which graduating students ages 18-22 can take steady steps into occupations that fit them through job training.

Currently, three campuses serve over 1,100 students. Hillsborough County has two campuses, located in Riverview and Tampa, and Pasco County has a campus in New Port Richey.

“I think what Pepin does, and what its purpose is, is to give students an education that they’re simply not able to get in a typical traditional school system,” said Dr. Jeff Skowronek, the executive director of the Hillsborough County Pepin Academies campuses. “It’s not that we’re better, what we do is different, and no one can do that different thing the way we can.”

Pepin Academies offer a school experience just like other educational institutions. Students can enjoy a large variety of extracurricular activities involving sports, music, dance, culinary arts, National Honor Society, many kinds of clubs, and more.

The smaller schools and classrooms can allow students to more easily have their needs met. Combined with eligible students being provided free therapy–including social workers, mental health counselors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, sensory integration and speech and language programs–and its excellent staff and administrators, Pepin Academies can provide a quality educational experience.

Recently, the Suncoast Credit Union awarded Pepin an over $11,000 grant for a Robotics club that will give its students the chance to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning throughout its campuses in makerspaces. In these spaces, students can channel their creativity into exploring and building productive and functional things through learning about robotics and circuitry.

“This is something we did not have before and would not have been possible without this grant,” said Skowronek. “We are also making a concerted effort to advance our career training options across our campuses, including advancing our culinary, food-based programming, adding opportunities for Microsoft certifications and even considering the potential for programs related to health professions.”

Skowronek added, “One of our biggest goals for the next couple of years is to just expand our programs so that students have more opportunities. There is something for everybody in this world, and I think by enhancing our programming we’re gonna provide more opportunities for every student to figure out what that something is.”

Pepin wishes to continue growing and enhancing its high school and transitional programs for the benefit of its students so that they can be more prepared for their preferred careers. It seeks to include more community partners offering real-world, hands-on pre-vocational training for its students and strengthen their STEM program in the future for the sake of students becoming the best productive citizens they can be.

Pepin Academies’ goal is “to empower students with learning and learning-related disabilities to reach their full potential by providing a high-quality education in a stimulating, low-threat learning environment with a wide variety of services.” Through these schools, students can overcome adversity brought on through learning difficulties and better develop their social skills for life as an adult.

To learn more about the Pepin Academies Riverview campus, call 533-2999. The Riverview campus can be found at 9304 Camden Field Parkway.

To learn more about the other schools of Pepin Academies, call 236-1755 for the Tampa campus located at 3916 E Hillsborough Ave., and call 727-233-2961 for the Pasco County campus located at 9804 Little Rd. in New Port Richey.

For more information, visit pepinacademies.com.