I teach at Bright Futures Academy, a private Christian school in Atlanta. I teach Bible and Drama/Theater to middle and high school students. I’ve been at Bright Futures for about four years. I’m originally from New Orleans, but I grew up in Atlanta.
I have a degree in business administration and thought I wanted to work in corporate America. I did for a while, but I realized there wasn’t a purpose in it for me. I transitioned into ministry and found out that I love doing that. That’s what I was called to do and working with young people in particular. Then, I had another career change idea, to get into education in addition to ministry and I was given the opportunity to come to Bright Futures and teach. Though I’ve had years of experience working with middle and high schools, Bright Futures is the first school where I’ve had the chance to be a formal teacher.
School choice is important because is allows students to attend a school of their choice. Students aren’t limited to a certain quality of education because of their ZIP code. When I look at our community, especially in the geographic area of Bright Futures, a lot of the schools are not properly equipping students. And it’s more than just a test score. It’s bigger than just your GPA. It’s preparation for life.
There are some schools that put an emphasis on scores and grades, which those things are important. But, there are other schools, though not many, that are trying to equip young people to deal with all of life’s circumstances. Thankfully, Bright Futures Academy is one of those schools. It’s our mantra: to teach, train and transform. It’s not just giving you the A,B,C’s and the 1,2,3’s, but showing you how to do life beyond the classroom.
“It’s our mantra: to teach, train and transform.”
Many public schools lack structure. There’s too little accountability. There is a 30 to 1 ratio of students to teachers and teachers are not empowered to cater to kids needs. When kids come to Bright Futures, the class sizes are much smaller than most public schools, which means that kids do not get lost in the system. We can figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are in a heartbeat, because we can cater to every kid on an individual basis. If a student is deficient in certain areas, we can give that student the tools he or she needs to recover.
The first thing we re going to do above all is hold students accountable to high expectations. You’re not going to be allowed to come and go as you please. You’re not going to be allowed to turn in work late. You’re not going to be allowed to skate by. We’re not going to just pass you on to the next grade. Everything here is earned, just like in life.
We witness a transformation in many of the kids who come to Bright Futures. For them, it’s a totally different environment. They realize they can’t do what they want like they did at other schools. They’re going to be held accountable. They are going to be pushed, stretched. They might resist the system at first because they’re not used to it, but the benefit of it all is that in the end, they’re better people for it.
I can’t tell you how many students have come to Bright Futures with a reputation as a trouble-maker and, one or two years later, go on to become a shining star, students who will come back to visit and say, “Thank you Mr. Jules for what you did. I didn’t appreciate it then, but I see the value in it now.” Or “thank you Ms. Martinez, thank you Gayle, thank you Philip. I was rough around the edges, but because you didn’t let me do as I please, you held me accountable, you pushed me, I’m better for it.” That is the greatest testament to our purpose as a school and as educators.
“I would ask lawmakers to put themselves in the shoes of these kids, or any kid who doesn’t have a choice.”
I would ask lawmakers to put themselves in the shoes of these kids, or any kid who doesn’t have a choice. For many people who live in more affluent communities, the schools are top-notch. On a scale of 1-10, they might rank a nine at the lowest. People who live in those areas or communities don’t have to worry about their kid not getting a quality education. Whereas, if you have kids who live in more run down, more urban communities that are not well taken care of, you’ll find that the schools are not as high quality.
So what I would say to lawmakers, is that it’s important that you consider the students who don’t have a choice: The students who want quality education, but because of where they live, they can’t get it, through no fault of their own. I would say, if we want our nation to succeed, if we want our children to succeed, we can’t always make a judgment from our positions of comfort. We have to take ourselves out of our own comfort and walk in the shoes of those who don’t have a choice, who don’t see anything outside of where they live. School choice helps students see beyond their life circumstances.