By EVA FEDDERLY
(CN) – A class action claims that a North Carolina school asserting it prepares high school graduates to compete in NCAA-accredited Division I and II athletics fails to fulfill its promises while charging the parents of its mostly disadvantaged students exorbitant fees.
The complaint was filed in Mecklenburg, North Carolina by Evan Rhodes, a former student of the defendant Jireh Preparatory Academy in Matthews, N.C.
Rhodes, who attended the program in the fall of 2015, claims the husband and wife who run the academy — defendants Jeffrey and Kindra Rabon — solicit students from across the nation promising to provide teenage student athletes who need assistance obtaining admission to NCAA-accredited Division I and II colleges.
According to the complaint, the couple charges students $13,000 to $14,500 per semester, fees that have allowed them to gross over $1 million a year.
But Rhodes says that money is ill-spent because the academy is built on false promises that the company peddles in order to prey upon teenagers and their parents who often know little about the NCAA’s complex academic standards and requirements.
Rhodes says every semester more than 60 teenagers are left disappointed and disillusioned.
In his own case, Rhodes says he discovered Jirah Prep on Twitter, and at a time when he was already eligible to attend a NCAA accredited university and play football.
He says he excelled in football during high school in Baltimore, Maryland, and he also received excellent grades.
Intrigued by the academy’s online presentation, Rhodes and his mother traveled to North Carolina in March 2015 to see what it had to offer. Based on what he heard, he decided to attend in the fall.
But he says shortly after he and his classmates arrived for the semester they realized that all the claims used to entice them were false.
Rhodes says despite claims to the contrary, the coaches and staff at the school did not have strong connections to Division I and II college coaches and recruiters; that they were not reaching out to college recruiters on a daily basis; and that the majority of outreach to colleges was done through mass emails.
“If you talk to some of these parents when they come to check out the program, Jireh Prep doesn’t even have a campus,” said Matthew Villmer of Matthews, N.C.-based Weaver, Bennett, and Bland, who represents the class.
“They have a little room where they do classes, they rent a spot from [the local] parks and recreation department, and a workout facility in an old warehouse … Jireh Prep is another example of a program preying on kids between high school and college trying to make their way to a Division I or Division II school.”
Rhodes says, again at odds with what he was promised, the academy did not record any of his practices and therefore did not create the highlight film into which they were supposed to be incorporated.
“After attending Jireh Prep, Plaintiff – through his own efforts and without any assistance from Jireh Prep -secured a walk-on position with Raleigh-based St. Augustine University’s football team,” the complaint states.
“In all material respects, Jireh Prep is a post-high school football program masquerading as a NCAA preparatory, non-profit educational intuitional,” Rhodes says.
“I have heard this exact story from many, many families that have gone through the Jireh Prep,” Villmer said. “This is not an isolated incident. Our law office is right around the corner from our law firm and we didn’t even know they were running this scam.”
Rhodes seeks unspecified damages on claims of fraud, facilitation of fraud, unfair and deceptive trade practices, civil conspiracy, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract.
Representatives of the defendants did not respond to a telephone call and email from Courthouse News seeking comment.