They Deserve a Dream: A Reflection

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by Dr. Bianca Jones
Assistant Principal, Rocketship United Academy

Editor’s Note: Dr. Jones originally wrote this piece as part of Rocketship’s weekly  Thursday Reflection, in which selected staff reflect on their practice and current topics and share with the larger Rocketship staff. All names were changed to protect confidentiality. We’re reprinting these inspirational words in celebration of Black History Month.

“What are you?”

“Which side do you identify with? Black? White?”

“Who are you more like?”

These are questions I negotiate, answer, re-answer, and avoid all throughout my life as a biracial individual.

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One Day When the Glory Comes

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by Christa Thomas
Principal, Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…Trayvon Martin. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal… Tamir Rice. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal…Jordan Davis. …Michael Brown. …Sandra Bland. …LaQuan McDonald

Trayvon, Tamir, Jordan, Mike, Sandra and LaQuan were not Rocketeers – but they could have been. Each day in our schools, we engage in deep, passionate work as educators to advance the life trajectories of students of color who live in zip codes that are still not deemed “equal” in the eyes of society. We absorb heartbreaking stories of life trials that our families face each day and yet continue to strive toward greatness for our Rocketeers and their families. So, how do we do it? How do we enter schools and office buildings each day with the stain of Trayvon, Tamir, Jordan, and so many more imprinted on our hearts? We follow the legacy and leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – that’s how.
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Boys to Men: Mu Phi Gamma Fraternity

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by Cameron Frazier
Teacher, Nashville Northeast Elementary

Great schools do more than teach kids how to read and write. They teach kids to engage, think critically and lead. When I first began teaching, I realized many of boys had room to improve both their academic and leadership skills. So, in October of 2012, I partnered with two colleagues at Matthew W. Gilbert Middle School in Jacksonville, Florida to unite the male population at our school. We envisioned a program that would help build the boys in our school into young men. Modeled after a fraternity, we focused on the pillars of scholarship, brotherhood and leadership. When I began teaching at Nashville Northeast Elementary in 2015, I extended the organization and created the Beta Chapter. I’m proud to share Mu Phi Gamma has already made an impression on our campus. Currently the Beta Chapter is impacting  18 young men. The Mu Phi Gamma Rocketeers participate in community service projects, tutoring, brotherhood gatherings, awareness seminars and have even formed a step dance group.

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Investing in our Kids: United Academy’s Ribbon Cutting

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by Kevin Bronk
Editor, Beyond

“Investing in high-quality, learning-friendly elementary schools is the first step in lifting student achievement nationwide,” tennis legend Andre Agassi said on Tuesday to a crowd of Rocketeers and community members. “This new investment in Nashville will make a difference for thousands of young people, empowering them to continue on to college and realize their full potential.”

Agassi’s remarks followed eager Rocketeers joining together to share their school’s creed (loud and proud, of course) to kick off United Academy’s ribbon cutting ceremony. Continue reading

Rocketship United Academy for Launch

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by Shaka Mitchell
Regional Director, Tennessee

Two months ago, families from south Nashville came together for a special evening. It was cold and windy, so we gathered under a tent and dove into an important task: naming Rocketship Nashville’s newest school. After some deliberation and a family vote, our community settled on Rocketship United Academy. After much anticipation, on July 28, United Academy opened its doors for the founding families. Four hundred kindergarten through fourth grade students, clad in Rocketship purple shirts, began their journey as Rocketeers. Continue reading

Great Ways to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

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by Nikki David
Associate Editor ➟ BEYOND

School’s out, sun’s out, now it’s time for your family to get out! Take a tech break and reconnect with nature at some of our favorite outdoor spots in each of our regions. From one-of-a-kind parks to nature preserves to outdoor performances, there are countless ways for your whole family to stay active, learn something new and rekindle your love for the great outdoors.

Looking to beat the heat? Check out our favorite indoor activities that will keep kids’ brains active and engaged throughout the summer.
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Reading Rocketship Education

Summer Boredom Busters to Grow Your Brain

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by Logan Juve Janicula
Integrated Special Education Coach
Associate Editor ➟ BEYOND

With so many amazing programs offered in our communities, it’s hard to keep track of them all! That’s why we did the work for you. Research shows students risk regression during summer months, and what better way to keep that brain healthy than by finding fun ways to learn in your local area? We hand-picked our three favorite activities in each of our regions to stretch your student’s thinking this summer.

These summer activities will help you beat the heat indoors, but don’t miss our recommendations to get your family outside!
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Meet Ms. Thomas, Principal of Rocketship Nashville Northeast

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by Lilli Jackson
Manager of Community Development, Rocketship Nashville

As this school year comes to a close in Tennessee, Rocketship Nashville Northeast (RNNE) continues to welcome new students. Anyone who has ever worked in a similar urban environment knows that relatively high student mobility is par for the course. Even at this late stage of the school year, when students join RNNE, they are greeted immediately by Principal Christa Thomas. She is one of the first people new Rocketeers meet and, with a mixture of sincere care and stern expectations, she welcomes them into the Rocketship family. Her blend of care and high expectations comes as a direct result of her own past and recent history.

Though Christa is a sweet southern girl, hailing from Statesboro, GA, she came to Rocketship after spending several years working in south Chicago. In her brief time as leader of Rocketship’s first Nashville school, it’s clear her drive to eliminate the achievement gap is not just a matter of professional pride, it’s a part of her personal, and even spiritual, journey. I had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Thomas to learn more about her path to Nashville and what “Rethinking elementary school from the ground up” means to her. Continue reading

Building Schools for Success

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Harrison Tucker
Associate Director, Real Estate Development

It’s like a Dan Brown novel.

Here’s the plot: some elusive, nefarious villain – let’s call it the Achievement Gap League – has cleverly distributed the key to the world’s most pressing puzzle – Kids’ Success – among disparate parties, each party unaware the other is in possession of this sweet knowledge. To break the code, and stop the Achievement Gap League, all parties have to find each other, to share their nuggets of knowledge and arrange them in the right way. Here’s the catch, the Dan Brown twist: you don’t know if you’ve broken the code until years later. Continue reading

Rocketship Nashville #2 Prepares for Launch

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by Shaka Mitchell
Regional Director, Tennessee

The next time you’re in Nashville, I want to take you to visit 320 Plus Park Boulevard. That’s where we recently started the full-scale renovation of a building that will house the second Rocketship elementary school in Nashville next fall. (For those keeping tally – that’s two schools opening in the past two years, set to serve nearly 1,000 Rocketeers in total). I expect that in the coming months I’ll write more about the surrounding neighborhood as our team deepens roots in the community, but as it’s only January, I wanted to write a little about what it means to be the first expanding Rocketship region outside of the Bay Area. Continue reading

Building Facilities For the Kids

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by Harrison Tucker
Associate Director, Real Estate Development

“What do you think this is – break time?! We’ve got holes to dig, nails to hammer!” I gruffed at a small gentleman peering into the job site. Continue reading

Why we Need Each Other

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by Danny Song
Math Teacher, Nashville Northeast Elementary

I was back in my old stomping grounds: Union University. Three years after I had graduated, I returned to speak at a memorial service for the EF-4 tornado that damaged or destroyed 80% of the campus in 2008. I had been trapped under the rubble until rescuers excavated me out. As I walked into the service, my phone rang. It was my executive director back in Memphis calling me. It was a school night. Continue reading