Partnerships Lead to Lasting Change
By Nicole Bush
Turkeys, hams, and yams. Those were just some of the items we distributed this past weekend to families at our inaugural fall festival for the Carver cluster, in partnership with Purpose Built Schools Atlanta.
This five-year and counting partnership with Communities in Schools of Atlanta and Purpose Built Schools Atlanta continues to change the trajectory of students and families in some of the city’s poorest zip codes.
Many of the students at Carver STEAM Academy, where I work as a school coordinator, live in public housing at a property across the street from a federal penitentiary. During this time of distanced-learning, we have been laser-focused on getting kids to log in and stay focused despite the challenges of the pandemic.
As you’ve seen us write before, there’s no special equation to what we do – just hard work, patience, and showing up every single day for our students and their families.
We all know the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
It’s hard to consider a particular school or career if you’ve never been exposed to it or have never seen people who look like you excel in that field. I’m reminded of India, a curious, bright student I worked with from freshman to senior year at Carver.
Oftentimes, people treat students as data points, numbers on a spreadsheet. Through our partnership, we treat them like family.
Before the pandemic, we regularly took our students on exploration trips to expose them to new possibilities. One of our final trips was to Los Angeles where the students visited the FBI, among other places. For India, this was a trip of many firsts.
In preparation for the trip, I took India to Lenox Mall to shop for business attire. Visiting the mall and the innocent teenage joy of a shopping spree – a first. Arriving at the airport and boarding the plane – another first.
After the trip, I asked her what was the big takeaway or seminal moment. She replied, “seeing so many Black people in a professional setting.” Perhaps the most powerful first. It showed her she belongs anywhere she wants to be. That there’s an entire world outside of her neighborhood.
India graduated this past school year and is enrolled at Albany State University where she’s considering a nursing degree.
Over the past four years, this is the type of attention to detail and the environment we’re creating in our schools with the Purpose Built Schools team. Together, we have reduced transiency by one-fifth across all students, reduced suspensions, and increased parent-caregiver engagement.
I asked Greg Giornelli, CEO of Purpose Built Schools Atlanta to share a few thoughts for today’s column. He remarked, “People should care whether their schools are serving kids and families well, especially in the highest-need neighborhoods. The biggest challenge we face isn’t what happens in the school building. It’s life outside the classroom.”
Having worked in city government, business, and the not-for-profit space, Greg has seen firsthand the importance of having schools completely integrated into the community.
That’s how we make sure our kids are presented with every opportunity possible. It’s how we make sure the schools are effective for the kids but also for the families. Through events such as the fall festival, we’ve been able to experience the highest participation in parent-caregiver attendance in school events this year.
As we take a few days to relax and count our blessings, I know I’ll be giving thanks for our partnership with Purpose Built Schools Atlanta and the families and students who have entrusted us to help them achieve a brighter future.
Nicole Bush is a site coordinator at Carver STEAM Academy in South Atlanta.