“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – President Barack Obama
When I took over Tindley Summit Academy in October of 2017, I wanted to do more than lead a school. I wanted to make an impact in the surrounding community of Dubarry on the far east side of Indianapolis. I wanted Tindley, a public charter school, to become a beacon of hope and change in a community that seemed to be neglected for years.
What I’ve learned in a short time is the powerful and positive impact a charter school can have on its community, its families and the future.
I made the goal clear at the beginning of the school year. My blog post, “To The Top: Tindley Summit and the Rebirth of Dubarry” shared a dream about how this elementary school would inspire a revitalization of the neighborhood.
I started by getting to know the staff, the students and the parents. And one of the first parents I met was with Ashley Virden. Ms. Virden was not only a parent of two Tindley scholars, but she was also a resident of Dubarry who lives in the house that she grew up in. She remembers growing up with friends in the neighborhood and she wants the same for her children.
Ms. Virden and I decided to start a neighborhood committee. The committee would meet weekly at Tindley Summit, and the school would be a partner in this committee. This was the first layer of what I talked about during National School Choice Week earlier this year. I was fortunate enough to win a video contest where I shared the story of my mother’s decision to lie about our address to send me to a better school.
In that speech I talked about the “I Choose Summit” campaign and how we would take Tindley Summit to the next level. While meeting with Ms. Virden, I realized it was important that we give “I Choose Summit” some legs. We put boots on the ground and hit the neighborhood to do some canvassing by knocking on doors. That is when Dubarry Determined was born.
Dubarry Determined is about revitalizing our community for our present and future neighbors. And Tindley Summit Academy is at the center of this revitalization effort.
All of that brings me to Saturday, April 21, 2018. Over the past couple of weeks across our city, there have been neighborhood cleanups taking place. The cleanups are a part of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s campaign #ItsMyCity. The campaign is about residents taking back their neighborhood and their city and loving the place where they live and work.
On this particular Saturday, our Tindley Summit Academy family, in partnership with the Dubarry Community Revitalization Committee, hosted the Dubarry Determined Neighborhood Cleanup. It was a fantastic event with 40 volunteers, including seven teachers from the school, five parents, our CEO/Chancellor and fifteen students from the school – all working together to clean the neighborhood.
Mayor Hogsett even came out to help with the cleanup. He spoke before our cleanup began and talked about the importance of individuals taking care of their neighborhood. Ms. Virden and I both were humbled by the amount of support for our Dubarry Determined Campaign, because it is just the start of what we want to do in partnership with the school.
Some people are confused about what a charter school is. There is no simple answer. Public charter schools are as diverse as the families and children who choose to attend them. I can also tell you Tindley Summit is more than a place for our young scholars to prepare for future success – it is an incubator for hope in Dubarry and for everyone in our community.
When the clean-up was over, Ms. Virden and I sat back and took a moment to admire what we had accomplished the work we had done. Not just the amount of trash bags we had filled or the people that who had participated, but for the growth of a movement that only a few months prior had seemed hopeless. I asked her thoughts, and this is what she said:
With just a pair of gloves, trash bags and buckets we were able to get out in the neighborhood and make a huge impact by cleaning up some of the blight that negatively affects our community. It felt amazing to be surrounded by so many awesome people who stood up to make a difference and be the change that we need in this world. I hope that through our acts of stewardship, others will notice the difference and be more mindful the next time they litter and will be encouraged to join us as we continue our cleaning efforts monthly. Gone are the days where we are just going to sit back and let our community get treated like a dump. We are taking our community back and showing the rest of our city that we do care and we will rise to the top.
I am completely humbled by what happened on that Saturday, but I am also now motivated more than ever. Tindley Summit and Dubarry Determined have allowed Dubarry to be reborn and we are going straight, “TO THE TOP.”