Scholars’ Families Join the CA Team

This summer, I had the great pleasure of sitting down for an interview with Lakethia Hampton, the aunt of one of the girls on the Sci Academy volleyball team. Having coached volleyball for the past four years at Sci Academy, I had met Lakethia Hampton a few times at games; she had even refereed a game during my first season as coach! This year, Lakethia joined the Sci Academy Team to work in our Essential Skills Program, where she will be educating scholars with significant cognitive disabilities.

Why write a blog post about this? Many of our scholars’ family members participate in our parent groups, attend games, come to school functions and so on. Lakethia could have chosen to work at any school in the city; she chose to work for us, where her niece attends school. This was a very special moment for me and one I wanted to share and celebrate.

I sat down with Lakethia to ask about her choice to work at Sci Academy. Her reasons align with what matters most for our scholars and our whole staff: (1) unity and consistency among staff, (2) constant growth and striving for improvement, and (3) a deep commitment to ensuring that all scholars are truly prepared for college.

What were your impressions of Sci Academy before working here?

Prior to working here, I noticed the growth and maturity in my neice, Alexis, just throughout the different conversations we would have. She would come to me and ask me more questions regarding college. I saw that she started getting into sports more. Once she came here, she just started to blossom. She was always that special kid, but it was like [Collegiate Academies] brought out that inner beauty and confidence in her.

What it is like to interact with her teachers now that you are on the team!?

I thought it would be weird the first day, but it’s really not. I was in all of her classes my first day; she was answering the questions but also watching me! I don’t want her to be uncomfortable, I want her to be herself. I’m blessed that I am able to get this experience with her during her senior year. She’s like my baby; I remember when she was born, taking the bus to go see her. I couldn’t even wait to go see her! But the maturity in all of the students, how well they answer their questions, I didn’t learn that stuff until my junior or senior year. You all are teaching them how to speak in professional situations from a young age.

How did Alexis feel about you working at Sci?

She was nervous, especially after that first day. I told her to just be yourself; I’m not coming here to spy on you. You have to live your life. There are choices you are going to have to make and consequences for everything. If you get in trouble at school, I’m not going to go call your Mom because most likely your teachers have already called her anyway.

Can you tell me about the Personal Mission Statement you wrote when you joined our team?

When Rhonda [Rhonda Dale, Sci Academy’s Principal] told us that we had to write a Mission Statement, I didn’t really know how to go about writing it. I’ve never done something like this before. A MIssion Statement could go on forever! Rhonda gave us a few examples and each was slightly different. I knew I wanted to tell my story and say how I ended up here. I decided to start off with what happened in high school and how I got through my college experience. I wasn’t prepared for college though I thought I was and I had to persevere through a lot. Being from this community is hard. A lot of kids think they are the only one going through struggles like I did, but everyone does.

Could we share a few quotes from your mission statement in your profile?

That’s fine.

Note: The following passage was selected from Lakethia’s full Mission Statement:

Entering my freshman year of college, I was not prepared for the classes ahead of me. Even though I attended summer school, I needed a remedial writing class to prepare. It took me to fail this class to realize what I was missing and what I had to learn over my freshman year. At that moment, I realized I had to do something to change how I feel. I felt stupid. I felt like I let my family down. . . . But when I went back to high school, I knew I did just enough to get by. So when I looked in the mirror, I was the one to blame. I knew I had to change. I had to teach myself how to be a student. I had to grow the hell up. And that is what I did. I graduated with a degree in Media Arts and a minor in Business.

[When I read my mission statement] It was really emotional. I didn’t expect it, but I got really emotional and broke down when I read this in front of the team. This is my testimony, that’s how I feel. I’m not perfect, but I’ve persevered through a lot.

How did you get into education?

After graduation, I began training for the tryouts for the WNBA. At that time, there was a shortage of teachers. At first I was like, “No thanks!” But after reconsidering and thinking back to those days of my freshman year of college, I gave it a shot. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

What do you want to accomplish this year?

I want to learn the ins and outs of my profession more. This is my first time working with kids who have more physical and cognitive disabilities. In the past, I’ve worked with more kids who have emotional needs. I came here and met the kids and they are my babies! I have to think to myself – how would I want someone to handle me or my child? If I’m sending my child to school, I’m trusting the teachers to teach my child what I’m not able to. So, every day when I wake up, that’s how I come to school. The kids are funny; their personalities are coming out and we are getting to know each other now. It’s been fun!

You just want to do better around here. Over the past few years, I’ve talked about getting my masters, but here, it’s like, if I’m sitting here trying to motivate our kids to do better, I can do it myself. That’s really where my mind is.

What do you think sets Sci apart from other schools?

The unity between teachers, the love we all have for each other. The higher goal at the end of the day is what’s best for kids. Everybody here is on the same page as far as that. At some schools, some teachers want to do their own thing. Here, everybody is on the same page. When you walk through the senior hallway, you don’t hear foolishness here. The kids respect themselves and they are talking about how “my grades are going to be better than yours” or “at the end of the year, my gpa is going to be better than yours.” I love that! I love how mature they are, how polite they are, how they represent themselves so well, how they help each other when they see someone struggling. That shows me that the teachers really did their jobs. We are opening up kids’ minds here to give them a different perspective. Had I not played basketball, I wouldn’t have had that. I was able to travel all over the world because of basketball.

Soraya Verjee is the Director of Human Capital at Collegiate Academies, where she is responsible for recruiting, selecting, and retaining great people for our team. Previously, she was an Algebra Teacher at Sci Academy. Soraya will be a regular contributor to the Collegiate Academies Blog, posting about topics including teacher development, the teaching profession on a national scale, and staff culture.

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