Super Bowl Fun at Atlanta Public Schools

As Atlanta prepared to host Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) joined in on the fun with festivities around the District!

Although Super Bowl LIII has come and gone, the big game left a lasting impact on students at Humphries Elementary School. On Feb. 1, Humphries received a $100,000 donation from the NFL Legends Community, an organization comprised of 32 celebrities and former NFL players. The donation will be used to fund field trips, extracurricular activities, and update technology for students. Principal Melanie Mitchell said she was “blown away” by the donation, noting that she can’t wait for students to receive digital tablets and other necessary items.

In the meantime, Atlanta resident and former NFL player Takeo Spikes said it was a joy to help meet some of the school’s greatest needs.

“It’s a brotherhood. It’s a group of former NFL players, hall-of-famers, all pros, and all the guys who played,” Atlanta resident and former NFL player Takeo Spikes told Fox 5 News. “It’s a way for all of us to come together to not only stay intact, but to be able to use our leverage inside of every community.”

An M. Agnes Jones Elementary School student got to hold and wear an Olympic gold medal, courtesy of 1992 Olympian Kevin Young, who gave offered words of encouragement to students at a Super Bowl pep rally on Feb. 1.

On Friday, Feb. 1, the M. Agnes Jones Elementary School Rams welcomed former athletes and rising musicians for a motivational Super Bowl pep rally. The event was hosted by Hot 107.9 and featured Olympic gold medalist/world record holder in the 400 meter hurdles Kevin Young, lawyer/public speaker Nicole Nash, former NFL player/rapper JMO, and recording artists Egypt, Sixx, FlauJae and YQ Dreams.

Each guest provided words of encouragement to 5-10-year-old students, FlauJae performed “Guns Down,” a song she wrote about losing her father to gun violence at a young age; and Dreams performed “Dreams,” an inspirational track about the relentless pursuit of success.

“You bring a child up the way you want them to be in life. Although we say it every day in school, to have the message come from people they look up to is really meaningful,” said Principal Margul Woolfolk.

On Jan. 25, Brown Middle School science teacher and football coach Ernest Davis recently received the biggest surprise of his life: a pair of tickets to Super Bowl LIII! Read more.

From Jan. 26 through Feb. 2, hundreds of students visited the Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Super Bowl Experience, the NFL’s interactive theme park celebrating Super Bowl LIII.

Champion of Change: Brown Middle School Teacher Surprised with Super Bowl LIII Tickets

Brown Middle School science teacher and football coach Ernest Davis recently received the biggest surprise of his life: a pair of tickets to Super Bowl LIII!

An avid football fan, a teary-eyed Davis was greeted on Jan. 25 by Brown Middle School cheerleaders, football players, members of the school’s drumline, and a cheering group of students when he learned that he was the lucky winner of the hottest tickets in town.

“It’s hard to put this into words,” said Davis, a veteran teacher at Brown and alumnus of Grady High School. “This is something that you put on your bucket list – something that you would like to do. Beyond that, I’m very surprised and very happy, and I’m so honored that my co-workers and people in the community think so highly of me. That’s bigger to me than even the Super Bowl.”

Sponsored by the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), the Superbowl ticket surprise was designed to honor individuals who are “champions of change” in their community. Davis was nominated by colleagues and Principal Tiauna Crooms for his tireless commitment as a teacher, coach and mentor to students and others in the community.

Crooms credits Davis with helping double the school’s science test scores, and says his commitment to students and teaching is unmatched.

“Coach Davis is truly a champion teacher,” Crooms said. “He’s never missed a day of school, and he’s an inspiration to our students in the classroom and on the field. He exudes the true meaning of what it means to be a coach and an advocate for students, and he is a father away from home for our kids. Every day, he stays behind and works with students, players, parents and colleagues, and has always been a team player. He is truly a champion for our school.”

According to Erin Pellegrino, vice president of communications, events and marketing for RISE, Davis exemplifies the organization’s mission to use sports to drive change in the community. Scott Pioli, assistant general manager for the Atlanta Falcons, RISE board member, and an ardent Brown Middle School supporter, suggested the organization reach out to the school for nominees.

“RISE is all about using sports to try to end racism,” Pelligrino said. “As an organization, we are seeking champions of change who are using sports to drive that change in their community. That’s why we were so moved by Coach Davis’ nomination. He is a father figure to a lot of kids, he goes above and beyond, he has a female football coach on his staff, which speaks of his commitment to diversity at all levels, and he’s having a real impact. That’s why he’s so deserving of this great award.”

APS Students Lead Children’s March for Literacy

Nearly 350 participants joined the Children’s March for Literacy on Jan. 19 with a goal to collect 5,000 books and raise $30,000 to build and stock 72 Free Little Libraries across Atlanta.

The march was organized by The Empowered Readers Literacy Project, a non-profit envisioned by a 5-year-old little girl who set out to tackle illiteracy by helping families build strong reading rituals and getting kids excited about reading.

“This march was important because this was a vision that came from the heart of a child and was a march that was led by children,” said Khalil Thompson, parent GO Team member at Parkside Elementary. “The community attached to the vision, galvanized and united to advocate for a brighter future for our youth.”  

Led by the Atlanta Drum Academy, Atlanta Public Schools students from Parkside Elementary, BAMO Academy, Dunbar Elementary, Burgess Peterson Elementary, Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Whitefoord Early Learning Academy, and Wesley International Academy marched, collected 3,100 books and raised $7,000 towards a goal of $30,000.

Empowered Readers Literacy Project aims to plant 72 Free Little Libraries in 24 underserved communities in Atlanta. Thus far, the non-profit has installed three Free Little Libraries at the Georgia Hill Neighborhood Center. The next six will be planted in February in Vine City, and three are planned for Ashview Heights.

 “While the physical march has passed, the movement continues,” Thompson said. “We will continue to press forward on our mission to get children excited about reading while empowering them to reclaim their own stories as we plant more Little Free Libraries stocked full of awesome diverse books in underserved communities across the city of Atlanta.” 

Learn more about the Empowered Readers Literacy Project, go to www.empoweredreaders.org

Grady Students Mobilize for Pedestrian Safety

Nearly three years after Grady High School freshman Alexia Hyneman was struck and killed by a car at the intersection of 10th Street and Monroe Drive while riding her bike home from school, a group of students are rallying together to make a difference in their neighborhoods and school community.  

Founded by 11th grader Bria Brown, the student-led Grady Pedestrian Safety Coalition (GPSC) is on a mission to make the intersection of 10th and Monroe Drive – and other busy sections of intown Atlanta – safer for bikers, pedestrians and motorists.

“This is so important because it’s all about teaching people and reaching them to make it known that this is a problem we can solve,” said Bria, who established GPSC in 2018, and now serves as president. “So many people use this intersection, and with the extension of the Beltline, more people from Inman Park and Candler Park and other neighborhoods walk or bike in the area.

“That particular intersection (10th Street and Monroe) is right at the crossroads of the Beltline, our school, Midtown Promenade, and Piedmont Park,” she noted. “There is so little space. There are new teen drivers and a large number of things that could cause havoc, like what happened when Alexia died.”

Six months after establishing GPSC, Bria and her group of fellow students are resolved to accomplish their mission. In addition to attending and presenting their ideas to the Atlanta City Council, GPSC has installed seven bike racks in and around the intersection of 10th and Monroe.

They also continue to speak out and crusade for pedestrian safety. On
Thursday, Feb. 7, Bria and other GPSC members will be honored by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition for their leadership, advocacy and efforts to make Atlanta more bike-friendly.

“One of our primary goals for raising awareness is to get more people to know about our cause and to get more students who may not be super involved,” Bria said. “They may not think this intersection affects them, but we want to teach them about what’s going on and how they can help solve the problem.”

One GPSC member, Jack Kast, a ninth grader, bikes to school every day, and knows the dangers associated with frenetic in-town traffic. In addition to countless cars at intersections near his Candler Park neighborhood, Jack often spends time waiting for the light to change at crosswalks.

“The whole goal is to change how car-centric Atlanta is – starting on a micro level,” he said. “We’re hoping that our activism and the hope for a more biking and walking–friendly Atlanta will have an effect on the rest of the intersections.”

Grady media specialist Brian Montero applauded students for their efforts. He, too, bikes to school every day and realizes the dangers associated with high-traffic areas across Atlanta.

“This is our students’ reality and I’m glad they’re taking these issues to heart,” Montero said. “We’re the quintessential in-town Atlanta school because we’re at the center of the city. This can set the tone for other schools. While every neighborhood is different, this could be something that can spread citywide.”

Perhaps Bria said it best:

“Individually, we can make a change, but together, our change is more powerful. There is strength in numbers.”

APS Students Showcase Scientific Skills at 2019 Regional Science Fair

With innovative projects exploring everything from biomedical research, water filtration and plant growth, to physics, environmental and animal science, nearly 500 scholars from across Atlanta Public Schools showcased their scientific and engineering skills at the 2019 APS Regional Science Fair.

Held Jan. 23-24 at the Coan Building, this year’s science and engineering fair was sponsored by the Atlanta Public Schools Office of Science and featured projects from 442 students in elementary, middle and high school. Students flexed their mental muscles, all while exhibiting more than 300 projects in various categories, which included biochemistry, behavioral and social sciences, chemistry and plant sciences. Their projects were judged by volunteers from APS and other local organizations.

The top 26 projects will soon go on to compete at the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair in Athens, Georgia, in March, followed by the top three, which will compete at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona.

Aniyah Ragland, a senior at Benjamin E. Mays High School, hopes to be one of those contenders after presenting her project, “Iontophoresis-Mediated Drug Delivery to the Back of the Eye Using Microneedles,” which explored the use of an electrical field and microneedles to prevent blindness.

Aniyah said the project exposed her to other potential career possibilities.

“My project really helped open me to this amazing world of biomedical engineering,” said Aniyah, who wants to become a veterinarian. “I’m now considering minoring in biomedical engineering.”

Aniyah Ragland

Aniyah’s classmate, Brianna Jones, explored the “Encapsulation of Pancreatic Islets to Cure Type 1 Diabetes,” which examined the ability of beta cells that produce insulin to envelop pancreatic islets
(cells in the pancreas) to help protect against diabetes.

Thanks to her research, Brianna is now focused on her career ambitions.

“I used to want to become a doctor, but now I want to become a biomedical engineer,” she said. “I realize that I can still impact the medical industry though biomedical engineering.”

Dr. Rabieh Hafza, science coordinator for grades 6-12, said the students’ projects demonstrate their outstanding scientific research skills, as well as the District’s commitment to prepare students for college and career.

“These are all fantastic, amazing projects, and these are amazing kids,” Dr. Hafza said. “Many of these students are doing doctoral level research, and this science fair allows us to help diversify representation in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field. It’s also an overnight game changer, because it can open up so many doors. Many kids end up getting unofficial acceptance letters from college.”

Bounce TV Sponsors Free Scholastic Book Fair at Heritage Academy

In celebration of National Reading Day on Jan. 23, Heritage Academy launched a free two-day book fair that not even Clifford the Big Red Dog could miss!

“It is the mission of  Heritage Academy Elementary School staff to teach the children how to read, write, think, compute, appreciate the arts, speak well and behave in socially acceptable ways, so that they can become independent contributing members of society,” said Cheryle Harrison, general manager of Bounce TV. “Many of the aspirations in that mission statement begin with reading. Books inspire. Books tell stories. Books educate. Books comfort. Books also prepare you to move forward. On National Reading Day, find a book or two that inspires you.”

The two-day book fair, sponsored by Bounce TV and the Scripps Howard Foundation, began with a kick-off assembly in the South Atlanta Cluster elementary school’s gymnasium. Representatives from Bounce TV and Scripps joined Principal Trennis Harvey in encouraging students to read, read, read.

Principal Harvey also encouraged students to select books that they both enjoy and challenge them as readers.

“I’m so super, super excited about the whole initiative,” said Kimberly Johnson, who joined Heritage Academy as media specialist this school year. “When I walked in the door, it was a culture of reading. I’ve never seen kids so excited about reading. I attritube that to Mr. Harvey.”

Heritage Academy has made strides in the district-wide reading initiative Race2Read – surpassing its school goal of 22,546 minutes with 38,135 minutes read and counting.

Johnson says she can barely keep books on the shelves, so the book fair is right on time. Every student will have a choice of two free books to take home. In addition, the media center will receive a $2,600 donation of Scholastic books.

“We do this at every place that Scripps has a station,” said Liz Carter, president & CEO of Scripps Howard Foundation. “Through this book fair, we’re going to give away over 80,000 books. Our goal is to give to kids who are in need, who have families with limited resources.”

Dr. Ronald Lewis’ fourth-grade class was the first to enter the Scholastic book fair, filled with popular titles such as “Dork Diaries,” “Twintuition,” and “Amelia Bedelia.” As students shopped through the array of early readers and chapter books, their eyes grew bright with enthusiasm.

“Is this a dream?” said Zyniah Williams.

Perhaps it was a dream realized.

500 Little APS Feet Washed and Adorned with New Socks and Shoes

Volunteers exchanged hope for humility as they washed the feet of nearly 500 F.L. Stanton and Cleveland Avenue elementary students and adorned them with brand new socks and shoes.

The nonprofit organization behind the experience, Samaritan’s Feet, aims to inspire impoverished children around the world and to offer encouragement to those who need it most. 

“All of us today need a positive message, and we’re trying to give a positive message of hope,” said Phil Campbell, Samaritan’s Feet regional director of operations. “That message of hope is dream big dreams, education is the key, and never give up. To have a total stranger come in and serve that message of hope is amazing. They will never forget this day as long as they live.”

Since its founding in 2003, Samaritan’s Feet and its partners have distributed over 6.8 million pairs of shoes in 108 countries. Volunteers, which included school staff and community members, served about 300 students at F.L. Stanton on Jan. 16 and 200 students at Cleveland Avenue on Jan. 18.