AYA Civil Rights and College & University Tour 2015: Day Two (of Five)

Every fall, AYA seventh and eighth graders go on a Civil Rights and College & University Tour, visiting sites of historical importance as well as the campuses of secondary schools and institutions of higher learning. Previous tours have included Tennessee and Mississippi. Over the next few days we’ll be posting photos and reflections from AYA students on this year’s tour of Georgia — so please stay tuned!

The following blog post was written by 
JeCarla Davis, 7th Grade, and Jaquez Dew, 8th Grade.

On our second day of touring Georgia, we were awakened with a rainy and cold day. Despite all the energy exerted on Day 1 of the tour, we were very anxious and curious to start this new day even though we were exhausted. Before we departed for Chick-Fil-A, we began our day in prayer asking God to watch over us on this new and adventurous day. On the trip to Chick-fil-A, we couldn’t stop debating what would be the best part of the day based on the itinerary. We arrived at Chick-fil-A at approximately 7:30. When we entered, there was a whole area reserved for Atlanta Youth Academy. The breakfast was filled with jokes and excitement and the response, “my pleasure” to our “thank you’s.”

We departed for UGA. During the whole trip, our minds wouldn’t stop fantasizing about what the campus looked like. We arrived at UGA around 8:35, we were introduced to the Assistant Director of Admissions and a team of tour guides from the Diversity Office. We knew that there was a whole lot more exposure than we expected; we were being treated like potential students. During an admissions workshop, we talked about core courses, ways to be competitive to get into college, and what colleges look for in a student. This experience made us realize how special our school is in preparing us for the future. Later, we visited the field where the first football game was played. The campus also has a special bell that is rung after accomplishments such as graduations and football victories.

After the campus tour, we went to visit the foot soldiers project at the Russell Special Collections Library where we viewed a documentary about the desegregation of the University of Georgia. We realized that to be a history maker, you don’t have to be well known, but just be willing to make a difference. We learned that people such as Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter helped pave the way for the integration of UGA.  We also met Dr. Maurice Daniels, Dean of the School of Social Work. He was so impressed with our questions.

After lunch, we headed over to the Butts Mehr Athletic Center where we met UGA football players Malcolm Mitchell, Isaiah Makenzie and Lovenza Carter. They shared with us the importance of balancing school and athletics. We also saw the UGA practice fields and the training facility. We finished the evening by dining out at a downtown Athens pizza restaurant where we hung out and watched the game along with several UGA students. Lastly, we came back to the hotel and talked about our day and what we have learned. We have so much more to look forward to as we head to Augusta to explore more wondrous sites such as Paine College and The Lucy Craft Laney Museum.

Check back tomorrow for Day Three! Click on the images to enlarge. 

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AYA Civil Rights and College & University Tour 2015: Day One (of Five)

Every fall, AYA seventh and eighth graders go on a Civil Rights and College & University Tour, visiting sites of historical importance as well as the campuses of secondary schools and institutions of higher learning. This year, with parent-chaperones LaRon Lucas and Keisha Scales, AYA students visited key spots in their home state of Georgia. Over the next few days we’ll be posting their trip entries and photos — so stay tuned!

The following blog post was written by
Alecia Taylor, 8th grade, & Jeremiah Andrews, 7th grade.

Our Civil Rights/College & University Tour began early before the rising of the sun. We arrived at Rabun Gap in our new Atlanta Youth Academy fleeces that we will enjoy! The two-hour bus ride consisted of anticipation, laughter and a bit of snoring. However, we were thrilled to begin a new educational experience.

Upon arrival at the Rabun Gap Nacoochee School, we met our tour guide, Mrs. Jennifer Moore, Director of Financial Aid. Mrs. Moore escorted us to the Convocation Ceremony, where we saw a preview of a cirqué performance which will be performed by the students this weekend. Afterwards, we split up into grades. Seventh graders toured the campus while eighth graders shadowed Rabun Gap students. One unique aspect is the huge barn that they use to compact recycling materials. Additionally, Rabun Gap has a solar powered cell phone charger that can charge up to forty phones at a time.

An exciting class at Rabun Gap for most eighth graders was being apart of AP Government. They talked about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Amendment. For lunch, we had pizza in the student center. We had an opportunity to relax and play pool, ping-pong, and air hockey. We spent time catching up with AYA Alumni, Elisha, Justin, Dasja, Stacia, and Caleb. After saying our goodbyes we surprised another AYA alumni, Samari Edwards, at Tallulah Falls School. We laughed and shared new happenings while being sure to capture a few pictures for Snapchat and Instagram. Leaving Tallulah Falls School we met up with the legend himself, Mr. Rock Curlee, at the Tallulah Gorge State Park. We were so excited to see him and to share how much we missed him. We hiked down the Falls to a very scary bridge. Afterwards we took some pictures and climbed back up 1,099 steps.

Following the hike we headed to Athens to check-in at the Hampton Hotel. We settled in then drove into downtown Athens for dinner at “The Grill”. Most of us had their very popular burgers. We enjoyed a few milkshakes and sodas along with several more laughs. We returned to the hotel to debrief from an interactive day. It was great to start our trip seeing so many familiar faces. Following debrief was lights out so that we could be well rested for tomorrow’s adventures at UGA! Go Dawgs!

Click on the images to enlarge. 

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The Impact of a Transformational Education on Family and Community

By Keisha Scales, President of AYA’s PTO
Keisha's Bio Picture
How many children do you have at AYA? As an AYA community leader, what are you hoping to accomplish this year? 
I have one child at AYA who’s a fourth grader. As PTO President, I’m hoping to encourage more parents to get involved with the school on a day-to-day basis.
I think this will make an impact on student attendance, achievement and behavior. This is a special, vibrant community, capable of accomplishing a great deal.
AYA’s mission and commitment is to provide each student with a transformational education. On a day-to-day basis, how do you see this playing out with your own family, and with others in this community? 
The experience of a smaller class size has allowed my son to excel here at AYA. I see the same for other children who’ve been at AYA for years. They receive a level of attention and encouragement that’s bolstered by faith, diligence, and teamwork. Mentoring and collaborative skills are also important in this community.
How has involvement with AYA transformed you as a parent?
It’s definitely changed my life. Parental involvement uplifts a student’s educational experiences by connecting parents and teachers in a meaningful ongoing conversation. AYA students know every adult here has got his or her back. I’ve enjoyed meeting other parents who share the same joys, concerns, and enthusiasm for their children’s AYA careers. Families feel welcomed and part of a larger team here.
AYA’s success means that the school also serves as a “lighthouse” for others modeling themselves after AYA. If you could speak to those parents, what advice or insights would you give on enrolling their children in one similar to the AYA model? 
I would tell them to go for it! Any school similar to AYA will allow your child to grow from pre-K to eighth grade, with all the necessary preparations and experiences — inside and outside the classroom. They go on to high school and college with easier transitions.

Making the most of our time

By Katie Koerten and Paulette Woodruff
Interim Deans of Atlanta Youth Academy (AYA)
We welcome AYA families back to school, honored that you have once again chosen us to help shape the formative years of your children. Thank you for continuing to believe in our mission of providing a Christ-centered transformational education. 
We also welcome—and are so grateful for—our new families. We trust you are finding AYA to have been your best choice and decision, allowing us to share in the education of your children. 
We welcome feedback from all so that we may do our best to serve you better.
Aligned with Peter Rooney’s remarks about transformational education, our faculty’s motto for the 2015-16 school year is Making the Most of Our Time. It is our commitment to a standard of excellence, from preparing quality instruction within our classrooms to orchestrating meaningful learning opportunities outside of them. As teachers and administrators, it is always with careful intention that we go about our daily business of providing students with skills and tools, putting them on paths of excellence extending well beyond their years here at AYA.  
Let us all be reminded to work and walk in tandem, doing our part to make this year a success. Let us commit to clear and timely communications. Let us commit to meaningful instruction and proper completion of assigned tasks. Let us commit to sharing the love of Christ with our children. And let us commit to collaboration and teamwork, to accomplish our shared goals.
Above all, we desire your prayers. We stand on our school verse for God’s people to humble themselves, and pray and seek God’s face so that we can hear from heaven and see God’s outpouring on our school.

What do you need for a transformational education?

By Peter Rooney, President, Atlanta Youth Academy (AYA)
When I transferred schooAA_L1503ls in 10th grade, it put me on a new track. I was surrounded by very capable students, people my own age who cared about education. My new classmates went home to families that cared about education. For me this new opportunity was transformational. It made a difference to my future, accelerated by exposure to teachers who cared, professional educators who’d go the extra mile to make sure you understood the lesson or appropriately completed a homework assignment.
Recently I purchased a used car. The engine seemed a lot simpler—not a lot of computer control. This made me think about how things used to be. I wonder if there are some lessons in this? I wonder if there are transformational reminders? Things did look a lot simpler under the hood. 
I wonder if our lives have gotten too complex and too busy with all that we try to crowd into the engine space? All this technology under a new vehicle is not only “under the hood” but out of clear view, in a way that might stymie reactions if the car went out of control. That does seem true in the lives of our students. Too much technology? Are the issues masked under a pretty engine cover? 
Perhaps we should keep it simple.  
I heard a speaker at Plywood Presents. He said we need to make sure that our young people find a way to be bored, because as a consequence they will create, they will imagine, they will find a way to turn a stick into a baseball bat. Or is that a telescope? A rocket ship? We do not have to entertain, and we do not have to put as much as possible in with the engine. To provide transformational education, we must keep it simple.
And what about fuel? That has pretty much remained the same over my 50+ years — if we are without fuel we will break down on the side of the road. If our young people are without fuel they will be too tired to learn. To benefit from a transformational education our students need to be fueled with proper rest, proper food and hydration, and proper encouragements from home.
Changing schools immersed me with teachers and students who provided transformational education to each other, experiencing it as a team. Here at AYA, our students are in a similar situation. AYA is not perfect and we are not the only educational option. We are, however, a Christ-centered school that will point each student towards his or her own unique embodiment of success — today and throughout AYA’s history. Students understand that they are going somewhere after AYA: they’re going to another school that will be transformational — this might be a boarding school, or a day school in the metro Atlanta area — and then, after that, on to college! 
Transformation is easier when students, parents, and guardians are on board together. When we are all pulling oars in the same direction. We hope in a series of blog posts throughout the year to help folks see “under the hood.” To see that it is simple. To see the wonderful outcomes that emerge when we allow students to be creative. And to see how we — together — can provide a transformational education to well-fueled young people. God bless you and God bless AYA.