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Every child in America deserves an education that opens the door to opportunities for a rich and fulfilling life. Having been born in the South, experiencing the repercussions of the unequal education system, I look around today and see that not much has changed.

I remember the extreme hope and expectation for a better life and equal opportunity during the Civil Rights Era, only to see the dismay today. We find ourselves in a conundrum due to the flagrant disregard in America for equality in education. This current state has led to a paralysis of choice. US News reports that more than 60 years after the monumental Brown vs. Board of Education verdict, school systems in the United States are still separate and unequal. Much of this is obvious because most schools lack the cultural capital to equip our children with a strong sense of self and the ability to value themselves. Regardless of some schools’ (public and private) ability to educate well, what they can’t give our children is a strong sense of self, because they exercise a lack of deference to heritage. While signs of support and empathy are real, many majority institutions just simply don’t understand what it feels like to be in the minority. Student engagement and retention continues to be a major problem. Failure and the dropout rate in African American communities are at an all-time high. However, all is not lost! We still have hope! We just need to resurrect the education model that older African Americans experienced growing up. Embracing our heritage and getting back to the basics of instilling excellence, while developing a strong work ethic in a disciplined and nurturing environment is the key to our children’s success.

I grew up in an atmosphere where being poor was my reality but I was never made to feel inadequate because of a “poverty mentality.” Moreover, the education I received as a child growing up in the small town of Forsyth, Georgia, as well as my Spelman College experience, set the tone for my life. My teachers and administrators had a passion for teaching and education! They also consistently made me feel that they cared about me, established goals for me and they held me to a high standard! Additionally, they inspired all students to “own” the outcome of their effort from within, and not allow outward praise to dictate the level of their work ethic and output.

My school “family” not only furthered my academic success, but they also cared about my presentation, behavior, manners and communication skills. Ultimately, the focal point for my teachers and administrators was the whole student and excellence was expected from all. It was, therefore, a natural progression for me to develop a strong work ethic, strong character, and a healthy dose of determination. My family’s economic position was a reality for most in my community, but we the children, were rich in immeasurable ways. I was empowered to believe that I could do anything that I put my mind to because of the high expectations and confidence that my family and teachers instilled in me! I felt invincible! I felt that I could absolutely conquer anything put before me. I still remember the delight and celebration of my teachers when the culmination of their efforts coupled with my drive and determination paid off with a full ride to Spelman College on a Rockefeller Scholarship (one of many that I received). Failure was never an option because my teachers would not let me fail! They cared!

According to the pre-eminent Harvard-educated sociologist, W. E. B. Du Bois, respect, truth, and knowledge are the foundational elements for educating children. The passion for educating on this comprehensive level is hard to find in most schools today. These values are at the heart of how Mansion Day School educates its students while creating a social, emotional, and nurturing environment to grow and learn. The Mansion Day School (Mansion) distinguishes itself among its academic peers as an independent, co-educational Pre-K through 5th grade preparatory day school. It celebrates excellence and achieves academic success. “While we are small, our results are big! We believe that a strong start yields a strong finish,” states Dee James, Head of School. All students at Mansion Day School enjoy a nurturing family environment, where they are valued and celebrated daily in an atmosphere designed to maximize their individual potential. Graduates are prepared for a lifetime of academic success.

Through a forward-thinking and innovative curriculum that is not driven by end-of-the-year standardized tests, Mansion provides a safe environment that engages young minds and nurtures the whole child. Historically known for cultivating a student body of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, the school currently serves an all-African American student body and has established a strong academic culture similar to that found in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s). Its cultural capital is rich and affords its students the ability to love themselves. This fact alone motivates students to believe in their abilities and not accept the status quo. They know that they are beyond special. They know the very core of their existence is not based on what others think of them, nor is it based on the negative stereotypes.

Choosing the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions that a parent will ever make. It is a decision that shapes your child’s future. A Mansion Day School education offers each child the opportunity to reach his/her greatest potential. The School presents opportunities to sharpen the mind, expand academic knowledge, and to stretch intellectual reach while developing skills as an independent thinker and confident communicator. This is a school that develops the whole child through exceptional academics, traditional values, enriching activities, expansive field trips and a community of family and support. At Mansion Day School, we are both a school and a family. Our family community is the heart of our school.

Additionally, Mansion seeks to engender a strong sense of self in every student; they appreciate and like themselves. Comfort with one’s own identity and with diversity helps our children in the marketplace of the future. An education at Mansion Day School affords them the opportunity to develop cultural competency and upon graduation, they are well prepared for cultural dexterity. Simply put, they become the best that they can become because excellence is the standard. Students develop lifelong friendships and truly embrace their culture.

Since 1989, Mansion’s challenging curriculum, affirming environment and high expectations have produced a foundation for leadership development. This fact has been a traditional truth but is glaringly obvious when its alumnus displays outstanding academic achievement, extra-curricular participation and community service. As the old saying goes, “The proof is in the pudding”. Mansion’s alumni go on to the finest private and public schools in the area and ultimately, matriculate at some of the most elite institutions of higher education in this country, earning hundreds of thousands of scholarship dollars to do so.

Mansion’s alumni credit their outstanding academic achievement, extra-curricular participation, community service and strong work ethic to the affirming and nurturing foundation received at Mansion. Because of these factors, a sampling of colleges that Mansion Day School’s alumni have matriculated to include American University, Amherst College, Brown University, Brown University Medical School, Capital University, Clark Atlanta University, Columbia University, Cornell, DePaul University, Duke University, Elon University, Emory University, Georgia Tech, Guilford College, Haverford College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Johns Hopkins, Michigan State, Morehouse College, North Carolina AT&T, Northwestern, Ohio University, Ohio Wesleyan, The Ohio State University, Towson University, University of Cincinnati, University of Dayton, University of Miami and University of Toledo. Notably, Mansion alumni also credit their academic success to the school – family collaboration that is one of the hallmarks of the Mansion Advantage.

It’s frustrating to see educators continue to roll out new initiatives and try new concepts for our nation’s children that just don’t work. So much money has been wasted on failed initiatives. At the end of the day, we need to reach back and revive the strategies of old, because they work. We need educators who have a passion for teaching! Regardless of the social-economic status, students will put forth their best effort when they know that teachers care. While there is not a simplistic answer to the educational quandary of today, we need to adopt an exalted opinion of our students’ capabilities. We need to encourage them, love on them (not just love them), believe in them and show genuine concern. Children are masters of recognizing fakes. It’s imperative that we embrace high expectations for every child in a disciplined, nurturing and safe environment. As the Head of School of a small, but mighty school, let me just say that I’m not stating what I heard…I’m telling you what I know for sure.

I invite you to visit Mansion Day School to learn more about this small, but mighty school!

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