How It All Began

Mater, which means Mother in Latin, derived its name and roots from Centro Mater, a charitable childcare organization founded in 1968 by Mother Margarita Miranda who was a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart in Cuba. Mother Miranda established Centro Mater in one of Miami’s most impoverished neighborhoods in response to the desperate need for childcare among a growing population of Cuban exiles. By the early 1970’s, Centro Mater had become a staple in the community and a haven for young children as their parents strived for financial independence in a foreign land.

Thirty years later, Mother Miranda’s legacy would inspire the inception of Mater Academy, Inc., a non-profit educational organization operating tuition-free high quality charter schools throughout South Florida. The first Mater school opened in 1998, just one year after the passing of charter school legislation in Florida. Its founder, Fernando Zulueta, who had volunteered at Centro Mater as a teen, recognized the growing need to bring high quality tuition-free education to families living in areas of poverty.

Over the years, Mater Academy would expand its reach to more underserved communities in Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens and Little Havana by opening additional elementary, middle and high school campuses. By 2010, Mater Academy had 14 schools serving more than 6,300 students in grades PreK-12 across Miami-Dade County. By 2015, just five year later, enrollment had more than doubled to 13,380 students throughout South and Central Florida.

Today, Mater Academy serves over 26,000 students from all socio-economic backgrounds across 41 charter schools throughout Florida and Nevada. These tuition-free schools reinforce our deeply rooted belief that at MATER, every child can excel and every child must have the opportunity to do so because every child matters.

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