While we were incredibly moved by the experienced shared by our community and business partners who spend Principal Shadow Day learning more about the exciting things happening in our schools, we were equally moved by the speeches provided by male students from Benjamin E. Mays High‘s Eagle Leadership Academy at the concluding luncheon. The academy is part of Mays’ single-gender approach to education, with the Dorothy Height Academy of Leadership serving the girls. (We’ll be featuring both in the next issue of The Atlanta Educator. Watch videos here.) It’s all a part of APS’ High School Transformation Initiative, which is providing a smaller, more personalized instructional approach to our high school students. The theme of the day was, “The workforce of the future is in a classroom today!” We think our Mays students spoke eloquent to that theme. Here are the speeches from the students, after the jump …
Dwayne Singleton Jr., freshman
Thank you, Dr. Hall, and thank you to principals, academy leaders and business partners for your contributions to Atlanta Public Schools. I attend Benjamin E. Mays Eagle Leadership Academy, where the theme is, “If you can build a solid boy, you don’t have to repair a man.”
Although I’m only a ninth-grader, let me make this point: I walk, work, dress and I dream like a man. Similar to my attire this afternoon, every day for school, I wear a collared shirt, crisp tie, easy slacks, and hard shoes. I also wear an attitude of determination, just like the mentors, tutors and guest speakers who take the time to visit my school on a regular basis. When an adult truly cares, remarkable things happen in the life of a child – excuse me, in the life of a young man.
For example, for the longest time, I couldn’t dunk a basketball. My legs just weren’t strong enough. So my coach, whom I consider a mentor, motivated me and advised me to lift weights. I did so for five months straight. Today, I can dunk on a 9-foot basketball rim!
Of course, dunking is a metaphor for achieving. The moral of my story is that through my own hard work and the assistance of adults around me, my aspirations can become my reality. Today, I’m sitting in an Atlanta public school. With the community’s ongoing support, in four years, I’ll be taking classes at the University of Georia.
Justice Weems, ninth grade
Good afternoon, distinguished guests. Dwayne and I share a few things in common. As you can see, we both look good and dress well! We’re also both ninth-graders at the Benjamin E. Mays Eagle Leadership Academy. And we’re very grateful to community and business leaders for supporting our local schools.
I’ll never forget the first time I stepped through the doors of my high school. For a split second, I wanted to turn around and go back to middle school! It was about eight weeks ago, and I was anxious but still ready to start my classes. Of course, as with every public high school in this city, Mays is now a transformed environment. Our school district would never have been able to meet this milestone without the extended community’s huge support.
In a transformed school, I get to study in a more personalized, stronger learning environment. And I study with a small but powerful group of my peers. My teachers, counselors and administrators know my name, my strengths and my needs. And they have high expectations of me.
By the way, did I tell you my last name is Weems and my first name is Justice? So how appropriate it is that I aspire to a career in criminal justice. When I get to college, I plan on studying criminology, investigations, law, and community relations. I’ll need to know these things and more if I’m going to protect the people and clean the streets of drugs. I want to become a decorated police officer. I’m determined to stay in high school today because I want to be a hero tomorrow.
Kyle Johnson, junior
Thank you, Justice. As a junior, I’m not too modest to consider myself a role model for the younger brothers of the freshmen class! My name is Kyle Johnson from the Benjamin E. Mays Eagle Leadership Academy. Recently, I heard an APS principal say these words:
“If you look at successful people, they lived ordinary lives before becoming extra-ordinary people.” My classmates and I are looking at a room full of extraordinary people.
When you support education – as everyone in this room is doing – indeed, you are doing something extraordinary. Sitting in the audience and walking through the doors of APS schools are CEOs, vice presidents, executives, directors and managers. You’ve earned credentials – from an M.B.A. to a doctorate. And you hold positions of power, prestige, and influence. Yes, you are what we will become – extraordinary people.
I’m sitting in a classroom today because I want to become a graphic designer for the Nike Corporation tomorrow.
Elmer Moreno, junior
Hello, distinguished guests! Like Kyle, I am proud to be a junior at the Mays Eagle Leadership Academy. Unfortunately, I can relate to my younger classmate’s first day of high school. I remember being afraid that I would not be able to adapt to a high school environment. I feared being left behind.
Ladies and gentlemen, that was three years ago. I made up my mind ever since then that I would work hard so that I could never ever be left behind. My education in APS has been rich and rewarding.
Has anybody seen our library makeovers, brand new playgrounds, and state-of-the-art facilities? Did you hear about the extra support for sixth-grade students – so that they can make it successfully to the higher grades? Did you read about the internships and other work experiences students are getting from local businesses? And were you at graduation this past May – when over 2,000 APS students walked across the stage with $129 million in scholarship offers? I know you were because you helped make these things happen!
To our partners in education, thank you for your time and your resources. We want you to know that we hope to see you again real soon in our schools. Oh, by the way, I’m sitting in an Atlanta classroom today so that I’ll be an electrical engineer tomorrow.
Nicholas Williams, senior
Citizens of the great city of Atlanta, my name is Nicholas Williams. I am a senior also attending the Mays Eagle Leadership Academy. I’d like to express my sincerest gratitude to our partners in education. I was asked to think about the best moment of my life, and I didn’t have to think too long to come up with an answer.
The best moment of my life was when I participated in the youth business institute through the TJX Corporation. Through that experience, I learned skills that will help me compete against anyone – whether that person lives in the city of Atlanta, the state of Alaska or the continent of Asia. I was an exceptional student in the youth business institute. Just ask my teachers, and they will tell you.
Because of my hard work, I earned a $1,000 scholarship and a job at TJ Maxx and HomeGoods store, where I am now employed part- time. My current job is serving as a cashier and sales associate. But make no mistake about it. My real job is to complete my education.
I’m learning all I can in a classroom today so that I can become a linguist in the United States Army tomorrow. Again, thank you to the community of Atlanta for supporting our dreams! We look forward to seeing you again real soon.
American Leadership Institute and Seminary can help these students to fly higher. Congratulations to the supporters of Nay High, and I am sure that this model will be followed by many high schools.
VP for Academic Affairs