When Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms stepped into the doors of Peyton Forest Elementary School, it became evident why Principal Cynthia Gunner declares it the “greatest school on Earth.”
Dressed sharply in school colors, fifth grader Jaliya wore a black and gold dress and fourth grader Karim sported a black suit and tie. The star students greeted their mayor at the front door and engaged in small talk as they escorted her to the school gymnasium.
“How are you doing today? Is being a mayor hard?” are among the questions they asked. “Yes, but being a mommy is even harder,” said Mayor Bottoms, who is a mother of four adopted children.
When Mayor Bottoms arrived at the gymnasium, she was greeted by applause and smiling faces. Two students stood at the ready to deliver a welcoming address, followed by the reading of the mayor’s biography.
It was second-grade teacher Kayla Marshal who initiated the mayor’s visit, inviting Bottoms to “the greatest school of Earth” via Twitter last year. To her surprise, Bottoms accepted the offer.
“I’m so excited that you all have a principal and teacher who think about you in every single way,” Mayor Bottoms said to the assembly of students and staff. “I just wanted to stop by and tell you how much I love you all and how much I think about you all. Everything I do, I think about our children.”
An Atlanta Public Schools alumna, Mayor Bottoms graduated from Continental Colony Elementary School, Bunche Middle School and Frederick Douglass High School. Her husband is a Peyton Forest Elementary School alumnus.
At the afternoon assembly on April 11, Bottoms shared a little about her upbringing in Atlanta. She talked about how her father, a good man, once made a poor decision to sell drugs. That decision landed him in prison, and her mother became a single mom. working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
“I realized when I got older that there were people in our city making decisions with me in mind,” Bottoms said. “That allowed me to get past these circumstances in my household. I never thought at 8 years old when I was visiting my dad in prison that I would become a lawyer, a judge, a mayor.”
Mayor Bottoms then posed a question to students: “If you weren’t afraid of failing or being embarrassed, what would you do?”
“I would sing,” one boy said.
“I would become a neurosurgeon,” said a little girl.
“I would dance,” said another.
“Don’t be afraid of failure,” the mayor said. “Don’t be embarrassed. If there’s something in your heart, do it.”