Alumnus Holds First-Ever Graduating Ceremony at School He Founded, Valiant Cross Academy
By Hazel Scott/ASU
Seven years ago, ASU alumnus Anthony Brock (’99) opened the doors of Valiant Cross Academy (VCA) to 30 sixth graders. Now, the school has made history -- 28 of the original 30 scholars walked across the stage in the school’s inaugural graduating ceremony on Tuesday, May 24.
VCA is an all-male school headed by Brock, who co-founded it with his brother, former NFL player Fred Brock, in 2015. Located in the heart of downtown Montgomery, Ala., this fully accredited private school puts a strong focus on developing character through a rigorous academic curriculum, discipline and leadership training for its middle and high school-aged students.
Now, the school’s founders are seeing the fruit of their labor.
“It’s huge to reach this milestone,” Brock said. “We drew the plans up back in 2014. This was something I wanted to do long before then, and now to see it come to fruition is really special, especially for this group of young men who have actually become family. They’ve been with me since sixth grade and to see these amazing men cross the line in their 12th year is really, really special. We have gone through a lot together…doing life together these past seven years.”
The ceremony included awarding diplomas and scholarships, and a glimpse into the future plans of the graduating seniors. Brock said 20 of the graduates plan to attend college with 15 having received scholarships. “Six are committed to ASU, including VCA valedictorian Jesse Ocana who plans to major in political science."
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed delivered the commencement address. A special moment of the program was the awarding of an honorary, posthumous diploma to Jaylan Saunders who died in 2019. Jaylan’s mother accepted the diploma. Brock said one of the original 30 moved away and didn’t walk with his classmates.
Brock, a dedicated ASU alumnus, is a member of the University’s prestigious “50 Under 50. He has committed his life to mentoring and educating young people, especially young African-American males. That commitment was captured in a PBS documentary based on Brock’s book, “Fruit,” in which VCA was prominently featured. Brock described the film as a timely piece that tells the story of how the power of mentoring can shift the narrative of young African-American males.
“I consider my students my ‘Fruit.’ … I planted seeds early on and now I see those seeds come to fruition. Fruit comes from Matthew 5:16, ‘By their fruit you shall know them.’ It’s almost like let the works I’ve done speak for me, and the kids are the most important thing to show the work you have done,” he emphasized.
Mentoring, Brock explained, is “built into VCA’s mission of positive guidance to help black youth reimagine success, to help the young men become leaders, community servants and to inspire those around them.”
VCA has been showcased on several local and national television networks, including CNN and Montgomery lawyer and human rights advocate Bryan Stevenson’s HBO documentary “True Justice,” and has had several newspaper articles written about it. The "Fruit" documentary has been shown at several film festivals. and PBS will air it for a year.
“We opened the school in hopes of creating a place where young men could come and be celebrated and not just tolerated. We wanted them to eventually become leaders who would hopefully come back and impact the Montgomery Community. Along the way, they have done that and more,” Brock said.
Brock said he had to give thanks to ASU for giving him the fortitude and vision to succeed, the characters he instills in his VCA students. “Anyone who knows me, knows I love ASU to death. I definitely would not be the educator I am without the mentoring I had through my years at ASU. All my family members—my mom, dad, uncles, aunts—they all graduated from ASU.”