The sound has been heard around the world about Atlanta Smart Academy. Tell us about your journey to starting Atlanta Smart Academy. Tell us about your hardships and victories.
This has been an exhilarating journey so far. I believe my journey to Atlanta SMART Academy started in college. I was a biology major on my way to medical school. I had internships doing scientific research in labs, I worked in hospitals, I had great grades and every reason to move forward with those plans. In my senior year, I felt God leading me in a different direction. I wasn’t sure what direction that was, but I knew it wasn’t medical school. So, in January of my senior year, months before I was planning to graduate, I had a change of plans. I prayed and asked God for direction before I went on a 40 day consecration. During that consecration, I have never heard God speak so clearly. Everywhere I went, I heard and saw teaching. From bus drivers telling me I looked like a teacher, to random emails inviting me to apply for a teaching position, to scriptural confirmations.
In February, immediately following the consecration, I applied to a teaching program called Teach For America at the last deadline. I was accepted into the program and sent to SW Atlanta, Georgia to teach high school chemistry, and the rest is history. I have taught elementary through high school, with my favorite being middle school. I also served as assistant principal of a high-performing charter school for several years. From my experiences, I have seen great disparities in the quality of education students of color on the southside receive compared to more affluent white peers on the northside. I have found my students to be extremely gifted and capable of
achieving at high levels, but because of lack of exposure and high expectations, they often under-perform. My desire to open Atlanta SMART Academy is a culmination of all of these experiences and realizations. The families of Southwest Atlanta are positioned in the middle of the technology, arts and entertainment scene, and Atlanta SMART Academy will ensure they are prepared to access and leverage these careers. For some of my students, this will be the first time they are exposed to a rigorous curriculum, delivered by passionate professionals in a suitable environment where we don’t make excuses, but we search for solutions.
Thus far, my most important victory is spreading the word about Atlanta SMART Academy to families in Southwest Atlanta. They (the community and families) are overwhelmingly excited about our school and the opportunities that it will provide for students. We have nearly half of our available seats filled and expect to have a waiting list. Our hardships include making sure families have access to the school, either through awareness or transportation. We have to continue to get the word out and work on creative solutions to getting our solutionists to school. But my founding team and I are more excited than ever to serve families by building a high quality school in SW Atlanta.
Tell us more about Atlanta Smart Academy. What are your goals and when are you set to launch?
Our goals are to enroll, educate and exceed expectations. We will enroll 192 founding 5th and 6th graders for the 2020-21 school year. We teach critical thinking through project-based learning with a focus on science, math and the arts. This means our students will engage in advanced science and math courses and daily instruction in visual and performing arts. As a result of this education, our students will grow at least 1.5 years academically and be equipped with the creative critical thinking skills to thrive in a constantly changing society. By the time students matriculate into high school, they will already have course credits placing them on track for college and eventually the career of their choosing.
Around what age were you when you realized that you were interested in education, and how did this interest manifest in your childhood?
Some time in elementary school, I remember wanting to be a teacher. I wanted to be a few other things also like a doctor, dancer and architect. But teaching stuck with me throughout all of my seasons of discovering who I was.
When friends would come over, instead of playing house, we would get our dolls and play school. I was always the teacher, of course. I would make up lessons and give homework assignments. I remember I had a chalkboard that I would set up and actually teach different things to my friends. I really enjoyed helping people learn new things.
If I have a child that I want to register at Atlanta Smart Academy, how do I do so?
We are a tuition-free charter school located in Southwest Atlanta and open to all Georgia residents. You can register your rising 5th or 6th grader by visiting us online at www.atlantasmartacademy.org. You can also read about our founding team, our core values and what makes us SMART. We look forward to you joining the SMART family. The open application deadline is March 9th.
For anyone who wants to sow a seed into or volunteer with Atlanta Smart Academy, how do they do so?
We absolutely need your financial support to provide a high quality, free and public education to our students. You can donate online at www.atlantasmartacademy.org. We have a variety of sponsorship packages for local businesses and donors as well.
We also have two fundraisers coming up. In January, we are beneficiaries of the MLK Day 5k Drum Run. When you register, join the group “Atlanta SMART Academy” so that twenty percent of your registration supports our school. In March, we have a flapjack fundraiser at Applebee’s on Cascade. Tickets will be on sale soon.
We are also in need of volunteers to help us with neighborhood canvassing, starting in January. You can visit our website and click events to find out where we will be and when. Click on the event in the calendar for information on how to sign up or donate. No experience is necessary.
Thank you for your support!
Tell us anything else you’d like us to know about Atlanta Smart Academy.
Atlanta SMART Academy is founded by dedicated educators, Southwest Atlanta natives and professionals who are passionate about the success of students and their families. We are now hiring like-minded teachers, administrators and support staff to bring this vision to life. If you are interested in learning more, visit our website www.atlantasmartacademy.org and click About Us>Join the Team.
Interview by Tiffany Buckner